Connecticut adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010, and is now embarking upon the long process of statewide implementation.
At the end of the 2014 legislative session–in response to reports from stakeholders that implementation efforts need to improve–Governor Malloy established the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce. This group of educators has studied the issue of implementation and come up with a list of recommendations, which they submitted in a final report to Malloy at the end of June.
Then, at the beginning of this month, the State Board of Education held a meeting, at which a handful of Common Core critics expressed opposition to the new standards.
In response, we published this opinion with the Connecticut Post. It addresses the reality that it’s time for things to change in our public schools, and that we need to work together to make that happen. For your convenience, I’ve pasted the contents of the piece below.
Jeffrey A. Villar, Ph.D.
It can be inconvenient to acknowledge that times have changed and that things don’t work as they did when we–the adults–were kids. That’s why I’m not that surprised when many ignore the fact that over 3 million jobs in America remain unfilled because we don’t have enough skilled workers. Neither am I surprised when many ignore the alarming statistic that 40 percent of Connecticut’s high school graduates need remediation in college. Or when people overlook the fact that Connecticut has the widest achievement gap in the nation, miring students from low-income backgrounds in a perpetual cycle of poverty.
But I am surprised by the misinformation campaign that has arisen in opposition to the Common Core State Standards.
It’s obvious that our standards have been too low for too long. Concerned business leaders in Connecticut are sounding the alarm that students graduating from our high schools today are unprepared to succeed in the job market. Colleges and universities are encountering an increasing number of students who are poorly prepared for post-secondary studies.
If the purpose of public education is to develop students who will succeed after public school, then businesses and systems of higher education are the customers of public schools. These customers fear that our national and international competitive advantage in a complex global market is seriously at risk. And they’ve called on K-12 programs to improve academic outcomes.
However, rather than responsibly addressing this reality–that as time changes, so should our model for education–much of the K-12 education system has taken up a defensive posture. They ridiculously charge that the idea of raising our too-low standards is a “corporate takeover;” that curriculum shifts are designed to raise profits for companies distributing textbooks; that higher education programs profit from remediation; that it’s unfair to hold educators accountable for doing their jobs well. And all the while, the situation for our students and economy worsens each year.
Although implementation has been imperfect, Connecticut remains committed to raising our expectations for our children because the status quo is simply not good enough. The Common Core has great potential to impact: (1) the growing need for students to take remedial courses in our colleges and universities; (2) the need for highly skilled labor for our businesses; and (3) the growing gap in learning between our economically disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers.
While Common Core raises expectations for student learning, it also provides teachers with greater freedom to attack the learning difficulties experienced in their classrooms. This is because the standards allow for greater focus on key foundational concepts, instead of pressuring teachers to briefly cover huge amounts of material. It provides an opportunity for teachers to retool their curriculums, allot time for deeper dives into the types of engaging materials that capture the imaginations of our children, and make sure students are understanding and retaining the skills they need in the modern day.
But the responsibility for transitioning to Common Core cannot rest solely on our teachers; school leaders and boards of education will need to set our teachers up for success. A single teacher cannot be expected to teach 25 children, adhere to individualized education plans (IEPs), provide accommodations as outlined in 504 plans, follow behavior intervention plans (BIPs), and ensure that they provide differentiated instruction for the remaining children. Instead, schools need to support their teachers by having literacy and numeracy coaches, master teachers, and appropriate numbers of special education teachers.
School leaders and boards of education must also invest in teachers’ professional development. They must provide our teachers with the necessary time to develop networks of highly skilled professionals who can work together on re-thinking the process of teaching and learning.
Proper implementation is going to take patience, and it’s going to take collaboration.
Let’s get past the misinformation and get serious about improving outcomes for all children in Connecticut. Let’s build a quality system for teaching and learning, and let’s make Common Core the corner stone of that effort.
Read the original post here.