Core of the Matter: Fulfilling Common Core’s Promise of Equity for All Students (#CoreMatters)
January 06, 2015 02:07 pm
Opponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) claim the standards ignore how teachers teach and how children learn. They criticize the curriculum as inflexible and poorly implemented. Most importantly, though, they argue that the Common Core will widen the academic divide between students, instead of closing the achievement gaps that exist between low-income and students of color and their more affluent white peers. But have any of these critics actually asked the school leaders who are implementing the Common Core what they think about the standards? Well, the Alliance has and their answers will surprise the naysayers.
Last year, the Alliance gathered together state, district, and local educators from five states to learn about the challenges and successes their schools and districts have encountered implementing the CCSS. The Alliance invited representatives from school districts that serve significant percentages of low-income students and students of color. In addition, the participating states, districts, and schools have reduced achievement gaps, particularly among their subgroup populations; have improved their four-year cohort graduation rates; and/or have shown continued growth over time.
In other words, the participating school districts have succeeded with students who often are considered the most challenging to educate—the very students the critics of the Common Core claim will suffer under the standards.
During the course of two days, the Alliance asked these school and district leaders for their honest thoughts about the CCSS and their implementation. Rather than describing a broken and rigid system, the educators expressed overwhelming support, and even gratitude, for the Common Core. Instead of limiting students’ learning, they said Common Core facilitates students’ mastery and understanding of content as they interact, and learn from, their peers and their community. Implementing the CCSS has enabled teachers to work across the curriculum to foster the deeper learning competencies students need for success in college and a career. These schools and districts are showing that all students can learn, can achieve higher standards, and can succeed given the right supports, including effective and supportive educators and administrators.
In short, these educators argued that the Common Core was not some new fly-by-night fad. It is just good teaching.
But don’t take my word for it. Read what these educators said in their own words:
”I think for me, the big take away I have from the Common Core is that the depth of learning that’s expected is something all children deserve. And that as we push forward, we need to make sure that we extend that opportunity to every child, and we have the expectation that every child can meet the standards and create opportunities for them to be successful.” —Erin Frew, principal of New Tech West High School, Cleveland [Ohio] Metropolitan School District
“The teachers with whom I work, and I have worked with most of the faculty, they seem to have embraced the ideas behind the Common Core. I haven’t noticed a lot of anxiety about test results or anything else about the implementation of the Common Core because they’ve been able to see how it actually can work and how students can be successful with even the most rigorous material.”—Keith Johnson, education program specialist at Benjamin Franklin High School, Baltimore County [Maryland] Public Schools
“The Common Core moves us where every kid that goes to college has that skill set, that knowledge, and hopefully we’ve built the dispositions as well for them to be successful. And the kids that need that most are those students from poverty. … [T]hat’s one of the ways I think Common Core is, in some ways, about breaking generational poverty for students, because it insures they have that skill set ….”— Dewey Hensley, chief academic officer, Jefferson County [Kentucky] Public Schools
The Alliance will kick off the release of the full-length conversations with these, and the other participating educators, with a webinar on January 21, 2015 from 2:00 pm-3:00 pm EST, as part of the Alliance’s new Common Core and Equity Digital Monograph Series. Traditionally, a monograph is a highly detailed, thoroughly documented written publication about a single issue. This body of work will achieve the same objective in a digitally recorded format.
This series of web-based videos will highlight the successes, struggles, and future plans of states, districts, and schools leading the way implementing the Common Core State Standards, with a particular focus on struggling middle and high school students. The series also will feature video segments focused specifically on professional development issues and the role professional learning communities have played in each district’s implementation of the Common Core. In time, the Alliance will invite other districts to share their Common Core implementation experiences as well.
The Common Core State Standards holds the promise of excellence and equity for all students. Clearly, the educators and administrators featured in the Digital Monograph Series believe that as well, and they are doing the work necessary to make that promise a reality. We hope that you will join us on January 21 to hear for yourself what these educators are saying, and to share your experiences with us as well.
Bob Wise is the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter at @bobwise48.