My initial Common Core compromise was intentionally brief—in part to make it accessible and, ultimately, as a concession that it details elements unlikely to be embraced by the political and corporate leaders driving CC-mania.
While I remain north of skeptical, able to see clearly cynicism, about the possibility that my compromise will be embraced, I did receive enough response—and many important concerns—to justify a follow up, clarifying a few key concepts behind my compromise.
First, the foundational motivation for the compromise is to highlight that both CC (and the entire accountability movement) and the USDOE are, as currently functioning, deeply flawed structures, each working to ruin universal public education. The flaws at the root of CC and the USDOE are related to bureaucracy, political/partisan corruption (a redundancy, I realize), and predatory corporations (the private feeding on public funds).
Next, the elements in my compromise are designed to re-imagine CC as a genuine mechanism of change—to end the current accountability era and spur a new era of authentic commitments to social and educational equity and opportunity and to end the USDOE as a political/partisan bureaucratic nightmare and re-invision the USDOE as a centralized and professional ministry of education that serves the public good and the people.
So here are a few clarifications directed at the concerns raised so far:
- Ending high-stakes testing accomplishes a few key reforms: (a) ending the disaster capitalism of Pearson and other corporations that benefit from crisis discourse about schooling, feeding on precious public funds, (b) ending a historically bankrupt tradition of linking test scores to individual students, teachers, and schools (using NAEP, random sampling, and broad data sets), and thus, addressing privacy concerns (NAEP data not linked to individual students but creating longitudinal data bases by states), ending high-stakes accountability, and stemming the tide of value-added methods designed to de-professionalize teachers.
- Transforming the USDOE to a centralized, professional, and responsive ministry of education does not mean I am calling for standardization or “government control of schools.” In fact, I am calling for the exact opposite of those concerns. Centralized does not mean standardized. Currently, the US has a public workforce composed of public school teachers and publicly funded university professors that includes all the expertise and knowledge needed to create the resources every public school in the US needs. As I detailed, the USDOE centralizes all materials, resources, and assessments (NAEP), but centralized must not mandate for any schools. Instead, each school will base needs on the populations of students being served, and then the USDOE becomes a centralized (thus creating an equity of opportunity) resource to serve the needs expressed by each school. Education must begin with each student and work outward.
- Although I didn’t directly note this before, I also envision once we end high-stakes testing and move to NAEP-like data sets (similar to what Finland does), we must then expand dramatically the evidence used to monitor and reform further our schools.
Is it possible for educators, scholars, researchers, and community members who believe in public education and the essential nature of the Commons for a free people to take the tool of oppression (Common Core) and turn it against the very people who created it?
I wonder, yes, I wonder.
And when I wonder, I think about—despite all its flaws—the film Gandhi, and the spirit found in key scenes of a people coming to embrace their own freedom:
Brigadier: You don’t think we’re just going to walk out of India!
Gandhi: Yes. In the end, you will walk out. Because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians, if those Indians refuse to cooperate.
Can a spirit of non-cooperation grow from a solidarity around CC as a true mechanism of reform?