Alan Golston, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s US programs, recently posted some brief comments about the Common Core State Standards.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think the standards are a major threat to public schools nor a liberal plot to brainwash children. Those seems to be the views of at least some progressive educators and some conservative activists, respectively.
Golston’s comments and the business leaders he quotes present a poor example of both justifying and defending the standards. Golston quotes Kathy Havens Payne of State Farm who makes the bold claim that the new standards “level the playing field for all children.” I don’t object to the idea that common standards can be part of a broader equity agenda, and, in fact, I think it’s important to have high standards for all children. But if we’re serious about leveling the playing field, common standards can only be one part of that noble goal. Plenty of other factors – including inequitable state school funding formulas, distribution of teachers, and out-of-school factors, just to name a few – contribute the inequitable educational opportunities and outcomes.
Think about it this way: by Payne’s logic, shouldn’t all states have reasonably equitable education systems given that all states have had their own common standards for schools and school districts for a good number of years? The point here is that standards alone aren’t enough to ensure equity. It’s all that other stuff, too. I have little tolerance for CCSS supporters who refuse to look at these other issues as well.
Just as troubling is Golston’s concluding sentence:
What we must do now is support teachers and make good on the promise that they have the tools they need to teach the new standards so that the nation can get the full benefit of this important shift in our education system – a shift that will ensure our nation’s children ready for college and career and a better future.
If Golston is serious about making good on that promise, he’d also suggest we slow down the the implementation of the standards. It’s not at all difficult to see teachers and teacher groups saying they like the standards, but are wary of the rushed implementation. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt the new push by the business community will suggest cautiously moving forward with the implementation of teacher evaluation policies, ensuring schools have appropriate materials connected to the new standards, the chance to re-align instruction, and adequate professional development for educators. Rather, it seems likely that the message will be: we need the Common Core State Standards, and we need them now. That strikes me as a recipe for disaster.