What Would Winning Look Like?

The comment keeps coming (most recently from Rick Hess) that Common Core regime opponents can’t just say “no” to the Core, that they must stand for something– not just against something.

I don’t entirely agree. If a mugger approaches you and says, “I’m going to beat you up and take all your money,” I will probably say, “I prefer not to be mugged.” At that point, I don’t think it’s a legitimate criticism of my position to say that I can’t just be against being beaten and robbed– I need to be for something.

But I’m going to go ahead, as a kind of thought experiment, and describe a world where all of this shook out the way I think it ought to. Here’s life in my world after the CCSS regime finally was swept away:

The Common Core State Standards are replaced with Common Core Recommended National Standards. These standards provide some broad educational goals covering all areas of a child’s education (not just math and English). The CCRNS (oh wait– can I put “American” in front so that they’re ACCRNS? Too much??) would be created by a national coalition of teachers and college educators; the creating group would not include a single representative of private education corporations. The federal government might provide some logistical help (setting up the conferences, providing infrastructure, etc) but there would not be a single federal representative at the table.

Adoption of the CCRNS on the state level would be entirely voluntary and not tied to a single federal dollar. State standards boards, also composed entirely of teachers, would rewrite the national standards for use in their states as they saw fit. Keep a little, keep a lot. Add a little, add a lot. Adopt it whole hog, reject the entire thing. They would not have to justify these choices to anybody except the citizens of their states.

A CCRNS Board would stay in place after the initial rollout. It would be smaller than the group that wrote the standards, and meet less frequently. It would maintain an office and web presence and field questions of the “What was the intent/meaning of standard Q.16-7?” and also collect comments of the “Here’s our rewrite of standard X.47-b/13, and why we think it works better.” These would be useful at the bi-annual convention where the CCRNS were re-examined and re-written. Teacher members will rotate on and off this board; it’s conceivable that a few may need leaves of absence to serve on the national standards board for a year at a time.

State Standards Boards will also maintain a skeleton crew for similar purposes, but it will also be up to the State Board to license instructional materials. No publisher gets to slap a CCRNS-ready sticker on their materials until the appropriate state standards board has checked it out. This does mean they will have to repeat the process for all fifty states. Tough shit.

All curriculum decisions will be made by local school districts. All of them. State DOE will not provide “model” curricular material nor “sample” course outlines nor a list of mandated units. They will not “recommend” textbooks. Let me say it again. All curriculum decisions will be made by local school districts.

There will be no high stakes standardized tests. None. Not one. None. States may decide they want to require each district to administer an exit exam for graduation, but the state will not provide it (well, the state never provides it– more accurate to say the state will not pay somebody like Pearson buckets of money to provide it for them). Any such exams will be developed by the local district. The local district may decide to purchase a standardized test that’s out there on the market; that will be a locally made decision.

How would we know that CCRNS was working? Because teachers, parents, employers, community members– who are not actually fools and dopes– would see the results. CCRNS would thrive if all the stakeholders said, “That’s great. More, please,” and fail if all the stakeholders said, “That doesn’t seem to help a bit.” Of course, since it would be constructed with a review and revision process built in, it could actually respond to criticism and changing conditions on the ground.

Because of all of the above, education will look different from state to state and district to district. In my perfect world, people will recognize that this is a good thing.

Obviously there are many points for argument here, and since I’m not a billionaire I can’t just force everyone to come to grips with my vision for education whether they want to or not. But in this piece I’m just laying out my vision. I’ll start making my case for it in Part II.

By Peter A. Greene

Peter Greene is a veteran teacher and
has a blog called “Curmudgucation.”

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