From the beginning of the call for and debate about Common Core, I have taken a clear stand against the promise of standards-based reform; for example, Why Common Standards Won’t Work:
A call for national standards ensures that we continue doing what is most wrong with our bureaucratic schools (establish-prescribe-measure) and that we persist in looking away from the largest cause of low student achievement: childhood poverty.
A call for national standards is a political veneer, a tragic waste of time and energy that would be better spent addressing real needs in the lives of children—safe homes, adequate and plentiful food, essential health care, and neighborhood schools that are not reflections of the neighborhoods where children live through no choice of their own.
Education is in no way short of a knowledge base. And even if it were, tinkering (yet again) at a standard core of knowledge while ignoring the dehumanizing practices in our schools, and the oppressive impact of poverty on the lives of children, is simply more fiddling while the futures of our children smolder over our shoulders and we look the other way.
So with the news of Oklahoma and my home state of South Carolina dropping Common Core, you’d think I would feel vindicated, but the truth is that if you dig beneath the (mostly partisan) policy moves to separate states from the Common Core movement, you find that those states maintain a robust and misguided commitment to all the reasons we should be dropping the Common Core.
For example, we must recognize that SC, specifically but as a typical example, is directly rejecting Common Core as a federal and thus flawed set of standards while continuing to develop and implement policy to design (yet again) new SC standards, new SC high-stakes testing, and new SC accountability—all of which are the essential structures that are ineffective.
The problem for education reform, then, is not specifically Common Core, but that the evidence base shows standards-based reform has not and will not address issues of equity or achievement.
As a parallel example of how most of the current education reform commitments simply do not and cannot address the fundamental problems facing education, consider that New Orleans has now replaced the entire public school system with charter schools; the result?:
White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.
The partisan political backlash against Common Core, then, is not reason to celebrate because the essential political commitments to misguided education reform policy (such as accountability built on standards and testing, charter schools, Teach For America, and value-added methods of teacher evaluation) remain robust below the partisan posturing against Common Core as a uniquely flawed set of standards.
Adopting and implementing Common Core and the related high-stakes testing and accountability mechanisms are tremendous wastes of time and money that we cannot afford. Yes, let’s stop Common Core, but as a key step to stopping the entire flawed education reform movement built on ever-new standards and tests.