The Reports of Common Core’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

This evening, I happened upon an article from the Associated Press, noting that West Virginia’s State Board of Education had repealed Common Core in the state. (Note: Common Core had already been renamed the K-12 Next Generation Standards in the state.) The new standards, called the West Virginia College- and Career-Readiness Standards, are available here: (ELA and mathematics). Another article presents the major changes as follows (with my snark in bold):

· Simplify the presentation of standards for teachers and parents (I guess sequential numbering is more simplified…?)

· Increase prevalence of problem-solving skills with a connection to college, careers and life-needed skills

· Align standards for more grade level appropriateness for all standards at all grade levels (No clue what this refers to… maybe the insertion of “with prompting and support” in a few K ELA standards?)

· Include clarifying examples within each standard to make them more relevant to learning (Most already had examples. A few standards do now have additional “instructional notes”)

· Include an introduction of foundational skills in ELA and mathematics to ensure mastery of content in future grade levels

· Include handwriting in grades K-4, and explicit mention of cursive writing instruction in grades 2-3 (Handwriting is great! Mandatory cursive remains an absurd policy.)

· Include an explicit mention for students to learn multiplication (times) tables by the end of grade 3

· Add standards specific to Calculus with the expectation of Calculus being available to all students (Yeah, no one is taking calculus in high school since Common Core.)

Increased emphasis on handwriting is indeed an addition, as are cursive and calculus. These are changes that other states have made too. Adding multiplication tables is not an addition to Common Core (I don’t know where this myth came from that Common Core doesn’t require multiplication facts by the end of 3rd grade: “By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.“)

But if you actually go and read the new standards, they are almost verbatim the same as Common Core in most cases. In 3rd grade math, aside from the addition of “speed” to the requirement for fluency with times tables, the standards are Common Core (with two exceptions that I saw: West Virginia’s new standards sometimes add clarifying instructional notes, and West Virginia’s new standards replace the words “for example” with “e.g.”). Oh, and the standards have been renumbered, thus making crosswalks with textbooks or websites more complicated.

I know, as someone who actually likes Common Core and wants it to stick around, that I probably shouldn’t even be writing about this. I should probably sit quietly while the state attempts to pull a fast one on its populace. But this is *so* dumb that I felt obliged to say something.

It’s *so* dumb to waste even one cent of taxpayer money on Common Core commissions in state after state, each resulting in virtually identical standards to the much-loathed Common Core.

It’s *so* dumb to keep the same standards but renumber them, making things needlessly more complicated for teachers and providing absolutely no benefit.

It’s *so* dumb to rename the standards twice but leave the content unchanged, all in an to attempt to fool the hysterical masses.

It’s *so* dumb to report on these kinds of changes as if they are “repeals” when they are nothing of the sort.

Rather than doing dumb things like these, here are some suggestions for how these situations might be better handled (admittedly these are probably naïve, because I’m blessed not to have to deal with crazy people for my livelihood):

  • If your citizens believe nonsensical things about Common Core that aren’t true, you should correct their misunderstandings. You should not feed those nonsensical beliefs for political gain [1].
  • If you think the standards are good enough to keep almost verbatim, then defend the standards rather than running from them. 
  • If you don’t think the standards are good enough to keep, then don’t keep them! Get smart people together and do a legitimate rewrite.
  • If you leave the standards open for public comment for months and you get virtually no comments based on any discernible evidence, the standards are probably pretty good.
  • If your citizens are so gullible that they will fall for such transparently obvious ploys, you’ve got problems with the gullibility of your citizenry (which might be mitigated with better standards and instruction).

So, West Virginia’s kids will still be learning Common Core standards come 2016. They’ll also be learning cursive (and a few of them will be learning calculus (which they would have anyway, because obviously)). And what the citizens of the state will be learning–or would be if they paid any attention to what’s happening–is that their government prefers to lie to them for the sake of appeasement than it does to defend its policies as to what’s best for the state. For many reasons, that’s the wrong kind of lesson to be teaching.


 

[1] The first part of this sentence applies mostly to the right. The second part applies to both extremes of the political spectrum.

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