I’ve been raising concerns about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in this space for a while now, including their obliviousness to technology as well as their overreliance on standardized testing.
In addition, I’ve explained how anybody with “educational data” at their fingertips can “juke the stats” to make numbers say whatever they want.
I’ve even outlined how the standards were written with very little input from classroom teachers.
But now I feel silly because New York Times columnist David Brooks says people like me are basically clowns, members of an “ideological circus” that has descended upon a “sensible idea” — the Common Core — with “hysterical claims and fevered accusations.”
Indeed, writes Brooks, the Common Core is “a step forward. Yet now states from New York to Oklahoma are thinking of rolling them back. This has less to do with substance and more to do with talk-radio bombast and interest group resistance to change.”
In short, “the circus has come to town.”
Truthfully, I don’t feel like a clown. I feel like the teacher I’ve always been, passionate about my work and concerned enough to write op-eds that scrutinize a potentially damaging shift in education.
I won’t waste time debunking David Brooks’ column point by point because many informed writers have effectively done so already, including teacher Ann Policelli Cronin and educational blogger Mercedes Schneider.
Instead, I’ll explain why I continually question CCSS, despite the fact that the standards will very likely be implemented, regardless of growing resistance.
First of all, my op-eds are very educational — for me, that is. The research I’ve done to compose them has informed me more about CCSS than some “Common Core-aligned lesson plan” I might purchase from educational publishers. Therefore, writing these op-eds is self-serving, preparing me to teach under the Common Core.
Admittedly, I am disappointed I wasn’t among those selected for the “dream team” of 97 teachers who will “help develop high-quality lessons and resources” for the Common Core. This team is part of a $1.5-million contract that Connecticut has inked with LearnZillion, a “for-profit Washington, D.C., organization that helps teachers and districts make the transition to the Common Core standards.”
In all honesty, I did not apply for the “dream team” because I prefer to collaborate with my own colleagues in school and draw upon my own experience to adopt this latest educational initiative — which brings up the second reason I write these columns.
After 23 years in the classroom, I’m weary — not from the teaching, but from the endless array of “paradigm shifts” and “groundbreaking research” that has forced teachers to change their methods or adjust their outlook.
“The pendulum swings,” my mentor told me in my rookie year. “The initiatives are always changing and if you teach long enough, that pendulum will swing back again to an ‘initiative’ you adopted years ago. The pendulum always swings.”
So the second reason I write is because I find the process therapeutic. My op-eds will certainly not stop the Common Core — the latest educational “revolution” — but at least they allow me to vent my frustrations in a constructive fashion.
Finally, I write because I feel exasperated. I’ve grown tired of the insults and disrespect directed at teachers now. Picture Howard Beale in the classic film “Network.” I may not be as unhinged, but I share his indignation.
Do all of these business people and politicians really know how to “fix” public education? Do they honestly believe that most teachers have not been holding students accountable to any standards whatsoever before the Common Core arrived?
The authors of the Common Core proudly state their chief goal is to make students “college- and career-ready,” as if schools had never considered that objective before.
Let’s get real here. David Brooks’ suggestion that CCSS is “clearly superior to the old mess” is not just wrong — it’s insulting. I’ve always worked hard to be the best teacher I could be, and I’m not alone. I know my colleagues and I have succeeded in making the vast majority of our students “college- and career-ready.”
So that’s why I write these op-eds. I can no longer sit in silence and be judged by those who don’t work with kids and who have never written a lesson plan. Even circus clowns have pride.
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School. .