First of all, I don’t like the idea of privatizing, centralizing and mandating standards, curricula, assessments for public schools—I think they should be created and maintained under the auspices of public democratic institutions.
Second, I don’t like that the CCS are being forced on states or on teachers—many teachers feel this is being done to them and not with them. This is a recipe for resentment and poor implementation. How have NCLB and RTTT worked out? That’s right, not well. I'm not confident about doing such things on a grand scale, especially when they are being handed down in such detailed, prescribed, and rigidity-inducing manner. If we could have the CCS without pairing it with the current accountability structure I'd feel much differently about it. The current accountability structure corrupts almost everything that gets filtered through it. Also, yes, the logistics of financing and selling all of the materials and assessments and sorting out matters of intellectual property, all of that gives me pause given the way our economy and financial system is structured right now. I am suspicious of much that gets filtered through that, too.
And it doesn’t help when CCS architect David Coleman’s talking points includes dismissing student writing about “feelings.” And like so many percentages in education policy (e.g., the “lowest 5% of schools” must get turned around or the “lowest 5% of teachers” must be fired because as long we’re employing certain statistical models there will ALWAYS be a lowest 5%, no matter how satisfactorily anyone is performing and there will always be students not progressing within that same continuum if they’re already performing at 90 – 100%), I find it ridiculously arbitrary that teachers will now be mandated to teach a certain ratio of texts to other texts.
Kathleen Porter-Magee talks about allowing and learning from the Common Core’s failures, about seeing what works and what doesn’t. Yes! Great idea! Let's pilot them! Ooops. The CCS are already terribly far away from any tweaking stage--they're going straight to the big time. I believe teachers when they say the CCS are being rammed down their throats and that in many cases the standards and expectations are developmentally appropriate for our younger students (again, how well has NCLB heeded developmentally appropriate practices, especially for ELLs, given what language acquisition research has shown us). The current accountability structure does not allow for failure, even healthy failure. It's premised on the idea that failure is entirely intolerable, that it is the problem.
Finally, even if we accept that the ELA CCS are superior to most states' current ELA standards, that they're more intellectual and more conducive to critical thinking (and I don't know enough to claim that they do or are), it's going to be very hard to implement them in an intellectual spirit if they're being interpreted and handed down in a decidedly rigid, anti-intellectual manner. Furthermore, if systems that are adopting them are purging the more intellectual, knowledgeable, and critically thinking teachers such as the one I discussed in this post, there won't be anyone left who has the subject knowledge and experience enough to implement them as their architects say they are to be implemented. Autocracy does not beget democracy and no matter how fit and hard working they are, good athletes won't make good soccer coaches if they know next to nothing about the game and about good coaching.
I have no horse in this race, no reason to hope the the CCS will fail, but I think my skepticism is well founded. If I'm wrong about this, I shall only be glad.
UPDATE: My next post is a follow-up to this one.