Common Core: A Promise? A Failure?

The choice is yours.  Is the glass half full?  Half empty?


Photo credit: Jim_sama (Creative Commons)

Last week Lucy Calkins said to a room full of educators, “We are at the intersection of promise, opportunity and public education.”*  That view allows you to see the “gold” in the Common Core.  

In many cases, the Common Core is a wake-up call.  How will YOU respond to the instructional challenge?

If you embrace the instructional design of the English Language Arts  Core and look for the “good” within, you can see that the ELA  K-12 Anchor Standards contain the promise of success for students that will accelerate student learning through the progression of grade level standards.  The Common Core provides the “what” for students across the U.S.(for students in those states who have adopted the Core) and leaves the “how” totally up to teachers, principals, school districts and state departments of education.

If you believe the instructional design of the Core ELA Anchor Standards is “half empty,” you may think that nonfiction is now more important than literature.  Or you may think that there is a specific list of books for students to read. It is also possible that you believe the Common Core is equally as bad or even worse than No Child Left Behind.

Your beliefs shape your actions and your attitude towards the ELA Common Core. A deep understanding and knowledge of the Common Core can lead to decisions that will benefit the students in your sphere of influence.

Where does your information about the Common Core come from?  Do you choose to consult those teachers and researchers who have deeply studied the Common Core and who have actually dug into the work of implementation?  Or because the Common Core will involve change, do you choose to find only those “naysayers” who list all the “blemishes and imperfections” of the Core? Or have you taken a third stance as you sit on the fence contemplating both sides of the Common Core coin? (Or have you made a different choice?)

What you believe will shape your attitude and affect your students if you live in a state that has adopted the Common Core.

If we continue to maintain the status quo, without change, here is the impact based on historical trends shared by Lucy Calkins:

  • “From a group of 100 ninth graders, only 19 will graduate from college. More students will go to prison than those who will graduate from college.
  •  Information growth from 1997 to 2002 was as great as the rest of all the previous years of civilization.
  •  In the U.S. 85% of the jobs used to require basic literacy skills so the 15% of high school students who had debate club and AP classes were often only those college bound students. Employers are currently asking for employees with high levels of literacy – up to  85% of the jobs will require higher literacy skills. That is what the Common Core is calling for – up to 85% of all the students to have the opportunity for debate club and AP classes.
  • Students need a good school that has a cohesive approach to quality literacy. It is no longer “okay” to have an isolated, quality teacher at one or two grade levels.”*

(*Presentation titled Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Student Achievement, Lucy Calkins, 01/25/2013. Chicago, IL: New York Teachers College: TRWP.)

The choice is yours.  Do you choose to believe that the instructional design of the ELA Common Core is a “promise for accelerating achievement?”  Or do you choose to believe it is a failure?  What does your decision say about you and your outlook on life?  What are the implications for your students?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

NEED More Information?

For more information about Lucy Calkin’s work at New York Teachers College click here.

For a link to the book, Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement click here(Scroll down on the Heinemann link and you can read the Introduction, and Chapters 1 and 2 for free!)


5 responses

  1. Common Core is not three choices, good, bad or on the fence. It’s far more nuanced than that.

  2. You are absolutely correct that they are many, many choices. When I was thinking specifically about the instructional design of the English Language Arts Standards and the implications for teachers (just instruction), I must admit that I believe teachers and administrators have limited choices if they already have state-mandated Common Core ELA standards. Again, this post was not designed to cover “all aspects” of the Common Core (and particularly NOT assessment), but to encourage teachers and administrators to consider how their own “view” impacts their actions and ultimately the learning of the students.

  3. Fran, thanks for taking the time to write this post. It is quietly argumentative and immensely compelling — really, what approach is the most productive? How can we make the standard work toward our (teacher’s) goals of promoting long-term student flourishing?

    Like you said, this post pairs nicely with what I wrote today:

    Fran, people like you spur me on!

  4. Dave, I appreciate your comments! I am typically anything but “quiet” so I am glad that you found it compelling. Lucy Calkins was very, very compelling!

    We must be operating on the same wavelength to align our topics so well. That or the fact that January is ending and we are ready for folks to “get moving.”

    Your blog and your responses keep my brain thinking!

  5. […] The choice is yours. Is the glass half full? Half empty? Photo credit: Jim_sama (Creative Commons) Last week Lucy Calkins said to a room full of educators, "We are at the intersection of promise,…  […]

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