This guest post is provided courtesy of my husband Peter, a social studies/math teacher at a charter high school in Central California. He is in his 18th year of teaching in both public and private schools in Texas, Arizona, and California; he is also in his third official year of homeschooling. He is a lifelong Catholic, and a talented mineral collector and family historian/genealogist.
I’ve seen quite a few rather dire predictions and warnings about the Common Core nationally-designed school curriculum and its implementation. Quite frankly, having looked at some of the proposed Common Core standardized test questions, I don’t see much reason to feel threatened.
First, the standards themselves, like most current state educational standards, are vague and leave plenty of wiggle room for teachers who are creative and astute to continue teaching as they believe they should. My feeling has long been that teachers who feel constricted by standards often simply don’t look hard enough for ways around or through them. After all, there are always a whole lot of ways to say that a particular standard is being met in your class when evaluation time comes around.
Second, the types of questions that they are putting on the Common Core standardized assessments are going to be an absolute disaster anyways. What I saw of a free-response question on the high school math exam was significantly more time-intensive – and probably more difficult – than a free-response question on the A.P. Statistics exam. And the question I saw from the English 10 exam was longer and more difficult than a DBQ on the A.P. U.S. History exam. The scoring rubrics were just as bizarre, as if they don’t really know what they expect the kids to be able to do or how to evaluate it.
This is a classic case of bureaucrats deciding to “fix” education by making the standardized exams more difficult and then applying a knife to the throats of administrators to force them to meet those standards. But, the scores on these exams, I can tell now, are going to be atrocious, which is going to be quite an embarrassment for a lot of people, including those who designed this curriculum and these exams in the first place. It is an idea that will result in a lot of messy finger-pointing among disappointed bureaucrats in the end, but the scores on these exams don’t really matter to the students at all since they’re not part of a college application. Just another wacky educational “fad” to survive . . .