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Teaching the Common Core: Debate Continues

January 26, 2013

Alice Mercer

Today’s InterACT guest blog post comes to us from Alice Mercer, an elementary school teacher, educational technology guru, and blogger.  Here’s a link to her other InterACT guest posts at InterACT, including a prior post about Common Core implementation challenges.

The following is an excerpt cross-posted from Alice’s blog, Reflections on Teaching.  Her post is a welcome addition to an ongoing debate about how teachers should respond to the Common Core State Standards transition that is taking place in most states.  I want to thank Alice for allowing this cross-post, and for linking to many of the other blogs that have been weighing in with strong opinions and multiple perspectives on this important issue. – DBC

Idealism vs. the Probable and Possible

Larry Ferlazzo

Larry Ferlazzo

Fellow Sacramento teacher (and friend), Larry Ferlazzo, asked me to help him out by contributing to an article at EdWeek on “implementing Common Core”. Little did I know the minefield I was stepping into. The article has morphed into a fight between the “agnostics” (Common Core skeptics like myself and Larry), and the atheists (folks who view Common Core with the same suspicion and loathing that Richard Dawkins has for Creation “Science”).

Here is the original article on EdWeek. You’ll really need to go down to the comments to see the fireworks. Then David Cohen chimed in and the discussion continued here. Two commenters in  particular are leading the charge on this, P.L. Thomas, and Stephen Krashen, who argue with the point that Common Core implementation is “inevitable”. Their argument boils down to “only if you agree that it is”.

Even though I am working on “implementing” Common Core, I find the arguments of Common Core critics about what is wrong with Common Core very useful. They point out where there will be problems, and many of the inherent contradictions in the standards. I’ve followed Tom Hoffman’s writing on the subject closely for just this reason. I know folks will say, “If you think they’re so bad, why go along with it?” It is because we all live in a context, and a protest has to be more than one person. Tom Hoffman, one of the fiercest critics of Common Core, puts it best in this post, The Problem with Resisting the Common Core Right Now:

One big problem with the idea that teachers ought to be personally drawing some kind of line in the sand over the Common Core is that the entire notion of what standards are and how they are to be used is so vaguely defined. It is like gearing up to protest the passage of a new law in a country with no constitution or functioning judiciary or even police force….

…The Common Core just isn’t that different than what it replaces, and frankly it isn’t worse than some of the other existing standards, and in the past teachers have readily ignored the impractical parts of academic standards with no bad results for themselves or their students.

The implementation is the catch, as always, and in particular, the tests are what will deserve a higher level of scrutiny and, let’s be frank, internet-scale leaks of content, than any test has before.

Although “implementation” is inevitable, the life of these standards may well be short and unsatisfying, for a host of reasons. It’s my own belief that the assessments are where we need to take a stand. This will not be without difficulty though because of  the rules that govern our profession. I don’t think that folks who are not public school teachers have a appropriate appreciation for the ways that Education Codes constrict teachers’ ability to stand against policies, like new standards and tests. Thomas argues that we undermine our professionalism by complying. I will simply point out that insubordination is something that you can be fired for. In fact, in a discussion years ago with a CTA staffer, it was the single biggest cause of teacher firing in my state at that time. I have no reason to believe that has changed. You can be fired for non-compliance and lose your professional licensing.

Read the rest of Alice’s post.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2013 3:18 pm

    Teachers who work in “right-to-work” states like here in MS could easily lose both their jobs and the teaching credentials (which makes it hard or impossible to teach somewhere else), as well as lose all benefits for insubordination. Not all teachers are in a position to take that type of stand and jeopardize their families. Sadly, we should be able as a profession to address these types of issues organizationally.

    • David B. Cohen permalink*
      January 29, 2013 10:48 pm

      Renee, not disagreeing with you at all that the union makes a significant difference in these areas, but I think even in a unionized system, we reach a point where outright insubordination carries similar risks.


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