Saturday, February 1, 2014

Efforts to Change the "Common Core" Name Will Perhaps Doom Them Even More

It seems that in an effort to curtail criticism and the growing backlash against the "Common Core," states are simply changing the name of them, hoping to "rebrand" them. (See this article entitled "Some States Customize Education Overhaul, Ditch Common Core Label.")

I would say this tactic is deceptive and ethically wrong. While it might certainly help with "marketing" the standards in the short term, it does not address the deeper concerns about the standards themselves. Nor does it address concerns that people have that the whole purpose of these standards that seems to drive commercial opportunity.

In education and in life, we have no business trying to "disguise" things in order to make them acceptable. There's something in that strategy that makes me cringe with nausea at the unethical nature of such a solution. Besides it simply will not work. Educators and the public are too smart to buy these stupid marketing strategies.

The name of the standards is not the problem. People have concerns about them, from the way they were developed, adopted and implemented to their structure and content. Instead of ignoring those concerns, those who support them are ethically obligated to address them. Here's just a few of the concerns as I seem them.

  • First of all, the Common Core Standards were "coerced." While supporters point out out that many states chose to "adopt" them, some states simply adopted them to get federal money under Race to the Top. Arne Duncan's use of bribery to get states to adopt them instead of truly presenting the standards and encouraging debate about them was wrong-headed and now it's time to pay the devil his due. Instead of taking the time to argue and support their adoption, states had to adopt to get funding. Perhaps that at heart is Duncan's misconceptions about educators. He believes is salesmanship not rationally engaging educators in fruitful debate about his policy. That seems to be same problem demonstrated by politicians and policymakers trying to change the name to disguise them.
  • Secondly, as Diane Ravitch has pointed out everywhere I've read, "the Common Core Standards were never tested before being implemented." We don't know whether and how they work. There's plenty of boasting out there about their ability to take our students into the 21st century, but no evidence to back it up. We don't know whether they are developmentally appropriate either. There may be standards that don't match kids because we've never tested them. They were rushed to implementation without anyone taking any kind of lengthy critical look as to what they might look like in classroom practice. Now that they are being used in the classroom, it is no wonder educators and parents are seeing problems with them. That was mistake number two about these standards. You can't rush something as important as national standards into implementation.
  • Thirdly, there's no one in charge of revision and adjusting problems with the standards. They're just out there. The problem is, because those pushing these standards rushed their implementation, they didn't take the time for the entire educational establishment to take ownership of them. We know enough about "top-down" initiatives in this country in education to realize that would not work. With something as important as standards, it is important to take time work on them with the people who will be teaching them. If you want these standards to work, you have to get educators to take ownership of them.
All the marketing schemes in the world won't save the Common Core Standards if the process to develop, adopt, and implement them wasn't sound and convincing to educators. Efforts to use bribery by the federal government did not help. If the Common Core Standards are that great, then let's focus on those aspects and let's work to address the concerns that educators and others express about them and make them better. Let's be open and honest about them. Let's allow the debate to happen about both their adoption and their substance that did not happen because states were too busy trying to fulfill federal mandates. Trying to deceive the public and educators by changing their name will not be successful in the long term.

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