Lately, I've been pretty immersed in the Common Core State Standards. I'm trying read up on the research about why and how they were developed. I am thinking about the best way my district can begin to have conversations about them. In listening to others talk about what their districts are doing, I keep hearing, "We just have to get the Standards into the teachers' hands."
I don't know, maybe I am being too cynical, but I have this vision of me handing teachers a binder with the Standards and teachers sliding the binder onto a shelf. I do not mean to say that my teachers don't care about teaching and learning. I am part of a staff that is very caring and committed to student learning. I know they are going to think, "This is just another passing fancy. In a year or two, I can empty the binder and have another empty binder for my collection." Teachers are just busy! If I put the standards into their hands, I think I also need to give them the time and opportunity to talk about them, to dissect them and discuss them. Unfortunately, I am not the one that has the power to do that.
Last Monday, I went to a conference led by the Michigan Department of Education. The purpose of the conference was to give information about the standards and about the assessment that is supposed to be ready to replace the MEAP by 2014. I appreciate that the state put it together. I got some good information and some teaching ideas from the break-out sessions. But the general session that attempted to address the new Common Core test really bothered me. (It bothered me first of all because it was "a suit" reading a power point to me.) I know schools are going to be worried about the new test--what it will look like, who will score it, where will the cut scores be set (this one, I think, could cause some real issues for Michigan. MEAP cut scores in math have been set as low as 32% in the past!)
I think the focus of adopting the Common Core State Standards should be the teaching and learning associated with them. How do we engage in best practices to ensure that our students are learning to be critical readers and thinkers? How do we engage in conversations to make sure that we implement the Standards in a way appropriate for our community, school, and students? The focus should always be our students. But one of the state people, in regard to what was of primary importance in adopting the standards and getting ready for the change in assessment, actually said (and this is when I really started getting hot under the collar):
We don't want to endanger how we prepare for tests.
Seriously? That was the important piece of information I was supposed to take away from the day? The content specialists were saying that the standards aim for teaching the "capacities" of English language arts and "mathematical practices" in mathematics. That sounds like a step in the right direction. But the people at the top are worried about "endangering how we prepare for tests." Nice.
And the consortium that is charged with developing the new assessment asked for $350million to develop the test. They were awarded $160million. No money has been earmarked for administering or scoring. Of course not. Why would the state or federal government ever issue a mandate to schools AND then actually fund it? But we shouldn't worry about that. We just need to remember not to endanger how we prepare for tests. Oh-and one more thing-that the goal of the new standards and the new common assessment is to improve teaching. Because that has worked well for us so far.
Who wants to develop the scale that improves weight loss for me?