One thing that frustrates me the most when I’m reading the mainstream media’s handling of the Common Core is conflation. Too often, well-intentioned journalists publish pieces that never explain that the “Common Core” is a set of learning standards (see the rest of the title of the document: “State Standards”). This inaccuracy (and perhaps ignorance) leads to a conflation of learning standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Sometimes, teacher evaluation systems and data collection are also thrown in for good measure. We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? An article professing to be about the “Common Core” when it’s really about another element of education. (For an egregious example, see anything Glenn Beck has done on the “Common Core.”)
For those who don’t make education their career (parents, state law-makers, voters) it’s hard to know exactly what “Common Core” even is when the standards are lumped in with the curriculum, assessments, and a whole host of other things.
I’d like to suggest that as we discuss CCSS in our own circles of influence, we practice MP #6 and attend to precision. This precision means clarifying for non-education folks what the Common Core actually is. It means pressing folks within our education circles to clarify whether it’s the CCSS that they’re against or the lack of support for implementation that they’re truly against. Conversely, it also means speaking with precision as to what it means to support the Common Core State Standards.
For example, it is possible to be supportive of the Common Core State Standards and simultaneously skeptical about the new common assessments being produced by PARCC and Smarter Balance. It is possible to be supportive of the Common Core State Standards and simultaneously against teacher evaluation systems based on high stakes standardized testing. It is even possible to be in support of the Common Core State Standards, while against the shoddy implementation of those standards.
I know that this is possible because the above describes my current stance in our rapidly moving educational landscape with its complicated mix of ed reform measures.
We can not afford to allow the reputation of the CCSS to be tied to elements of ed reform that are discrete and separate from the Standards. We need to speak up, to clarify, to call out, to question when others malign the “Common Core” without knowledge of that which they are referencing.