Clarity on the Common Core’s Mission
Several log posts over the past several days have “outed” the agenda of those who have worked to get the common core in place: it is, in the words of Sol Stern, designed to restore “…the content-based, grade-by-grade curriculum in K-12 education” advocated by E.D. Hirsch. I have no problem with a carefully sequenced, content-based curriculum. Where I have a problem is in the archaic age-based grade level construct that was put in place as an administrative convenience in the 1920s and remains in place today despite the fact that it could be replaced with an individualized and customized education system. Here’s what I wrote as a comment post by Diane Ravitch and Lisa Nielsen (in the Huffington Post):
The biggest problem with the Common Core is that it reinforces the factory school model by using “grade levels” to define the learning sequences in each subject. The grade-level construct was introduced in the 1920s to help schools run more efficiently by grouping students into cohorts based on their age. This construct is based on the assumption that all students of a similar age are at a similar level of intellectual maturity. Anyone who has raised two children or been in a family with siblings knows this is not the case. Today’s technology makes it possible to move away from this administratively convenient construct to a truly individualized curriculum that would match each student’s ability and interest. This isn’t a “romantic notion”, it is a real possibility that will be lost if we continue with the standardized testing regimen of the past two decades. The common core and the testing that accompanies its implementation is precluding the evolution of education by reinforcing the factory paradigm. Worse, it assumes that teaching is not an art based on developing a nurturing relationship and deep understanding of each individual student but rather a science that can be engineered and measured with precision.
I am surprised that neither Ravitch or Nielsen (or any other education writer) attacks the fact that standardized testing is limiting our opportunity to take full advantage of technology’s ability to make personalization and individualized instruction possible. Instead, like most education pundits, they get stuck in the political underpinnings and the never-ending debate over child-centered vs. content-centered dichotomy. Nielsen mentions Sugata Mitra’s TED talk as evidence that a child-centered curriculum DOES work but doesn’t reference his overarching notion that “We Need Schools… Not Factories”. Here’s hoping the nascent rebellion against the Common Core will move us beyond factory schools.