Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Maryland's College and Career Ready Standards - Common Core

On a rainy Tuesday night in late September, the Calvert County League of Women Voters sponsored a forum on the Common Core Standards, which you may know are included in Maryland’s College and Career Ready Standards.  Thanks to the LoWV for sponsoring such an effort.

The information was presented by a panel sharing perspectives on the standards.  Panel members represented students, teachers, parents and administration.  The mic was opened to the audience members who asked some good questions.

I encourage folks who have questions or concerns to first familiarize themselves with the standards as written.  They are internationally bench marked and challenging.  They are not curriculum.  We decide the curriculum locally around the broader standards.    See them directly at:

Sometimes I fear that those who oppose the standards wouldn’t know one if it bit them on the bottom.  Opponents seem to be upset about where they come from and who is behind them.  In fact, one questioner at the forum implied that Saudi Arabia was behind Common Core.  That was a new one to me.  Other opponents generally blame President Obama, the Democrats or Washington in general.  

The Common Core Standards were developed under the leadership of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (not the U.S. Department of Education).  An interesting little side note: the new head of the College Board, David Coleman, responsible for SAT college placement exam and Advanced Placement programs, is viewed by some as the architect of the Common Core.

Some who oppose the common core standards, do so because they see them as too much federal intrusion into local control.   That ship sailed with the passage in 2001 of federal, bi-partisan legislation known as No Child Left Behind.  The goal, as touted when President Bush signed it in January 2002, was “to advance American competitiveness and close the achievement gap for poor and minority students.”  

Under the threat of lost federal dollars, each state began to dance to the tune played by the NCLB fiddler.  Every new initiative from the state level was aimed at compliance with NCLB.

Then along came Race to the Top in 2009.  When the states lined up for the hundreds of millions of dollars available through RTTT, they agreed to implement Common Core Standards.  

It’s hard to read the standards and come up with reasons to oppose any one of them.  They represent an effort to raise the bar.  They require a greater depth of understanding and practice that shows application of skills and knowledge - more writing, more critical thinking, more problem solving, more effective communication.  I welcome anyone who, after reviewing them, wants to discuss their merits.  I’d be glad to meet and chat. 

What makes the biggest difference in a child’s future is not the broad statements of standards, but the relationship between student and the teacher.  Each child who finds at least one teacher who cares and pushes and supports will be successful.