Am I a geek or a nerd?

Common Core and Curriculum
May 20, 2010, 7:40 am
Filed under: Nerd | Tags: , ,

The almost final version of the common core for ELA is available and although the documents still says draft, my sources (okay, my source, who is one of the team of 48 who wrote and revised these) says that this draft will be approved. I hope so, because we’ve already begun integrating them in the MC3 Social Studies curriculum.

I’ve got no beef with common core at all. In fact, I think the ELA core standards for History/Social Studies are very well done and reflect the sorts of reading, writing and thinking that good teachers already do and that we have included in MC3. What I am concerned about is the misunderstandings I’ve been hearing in meetings and through email. The first misconception is that these standards will replace our existing strands/content expectations. I think if you were to read them you would see that it’s a complement to existing content standards. For example, yesterday AtotheB and I were working on the US History curriculum, Unit 8, Civil Rights making sure we had addressed the content required. We then set about editing/critiquing the instructional material teachers had created and used the common core to assist us. So when students are reading about Brown v. Board of Education are they comparing two historians treatment of an event or are they comparing point of view or are they finding evidence in text to support an assertion? See, not a replacement, a compliment! But when I cited this example in a meeting of administrators, there were several groans and eye rolls that indicated they view common core as another burden, they asked about state testing of these standards, about changing their report cards to reflect these, about evaluating teachers. Not one question about curriculum and instruction…

Of course the for-profit curriculum entities will start trying to promote how well their materials meet common core. But I don’t know if they will really do a good job creating curriculum. Will it look like the current iterations, where I find that the book they try to sell me in Michigan looks exactly like the book they try to sell you in New York, except that anywhere a topic matches our expectations they point it out like it was tailored exactly to our needs? Or will it be  the thoughtful process suggested by Diane Ravitch in this article:

…a collaborative process of repeated review and revision…to design curriculum frameworks based on [the common standards] and implement them… They’d get teachers and curriculum developers involved, send [the frameworks] out to the field and try them. Everyone could use them. People could comment, and all of this could go into an iterative process of review, and back to the designers, and out again for more field trials and more comment. 


Which is exactly how we have developed MC3. Teachers and Consultants  review and organize content expectations into logical units of study, they create a list of ‘critical performances’ for a subject/grade level, they begin fleshing out instructional plans and materials, they are vetted by content experts, tested in the field by any teacher who wants to try, revised based on their experiences and tried again. It takes freakin’ forever but we have good stuff happening!! If only we could get more people to see it, try it, revise with us…its like open source curriculum, its free and its modified by its users.

Sigh…but then how would anyone make any money? Instead, the publishers will latch on, re-label old stuff, promise fantastic results and our little project of a vertically aligned social studies program that gets kids to read, think, write and remember will roll along in obscurity.


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