I became a supporter of the Common Core after reading page 6 of the ELA Introduction: “What is Not Covered by the Standards.” I recommend returning to this page with a highlighter and pencil in hand, annotating for oneself the details of good news for all teachers that unto us a profession has been borne, if we can keep it. Free at last from fidelity to textbook programs, many teachers are now planning with all deliberate speed, putting corporate reforms against the pedagogy of the wall, and breathing a sigh of relief from the burden of exhausting insincerity.
No fewer than six allusions later, I’m wondering whether the authors of the Introduction had the district unit of study performance assessments and state mandated interim and end of course exams in mind when they wrote that a “literate person…actively seek[s] the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement of high-quality literary and informational texts that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews”? Did the authors of the Intro know that my teacher effectiveness rating would be based at least 50% on standardized test scores when they wrote that “students who meet the standards develop the skills…that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language”? My 8th graders are going to fall out of their desks when I tell them that Language Arts class is where they learn deep engagement with an enlarged experience. 13 year olds can be funny that way. After they pick themselves up off the floor, I will tell them, “Just kidding. This is the class where you take a mandated test every 25 days.” The next thing to fall out of the desk might be their soul.
So, what are teachers to do when the potential of the Common Core bumps its broad worldview into the promise of the State Department’s myopic vision?
We teach: with respect for our communities and our students.
We teach: with an eye on the beauty and fierceness of the human experience.
We teach: with deference to a stunningly diverse and complex Earth.
No amount of testing should deter us from providing enriching learning experiences for our students. I also have confidence that purposeful instruction, masterful choices, and significant support for student learning are the timeless hallmarks of effective education that will outlast the testing craze and preserve our nation’s ability to keep its republic. (Thank you, Mr. Franklin.)
To that end, the ATF is providing excellent professional learning this month on the topics of scaffolding for striving and special education learners and thinking math. The rich discussions with other practitioners in these workshops may be just the kind of refreshment that will linger and sustain us while we give a boost to the souls of our students on all 22 (correct me) of our testing days.