"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Common Core Has Teachers Scrambling

The Core Standards are coming! The Core Standards are coming! Get out your lesson plans!

Wait. You're not ready with lesson plans? No resource materials? Ed Week reported today that many teachers and principals are desperately searching for hard to find resource materials to teach the new common standards. Given that Common Core standards were supposed to be about "doing less reinventing the wheel, and more sharing of good stuff," it was surprising to read how difficult it was for people to find the necessary resources. Catherine Gewertz admitted,

I'd been hearing that some of the lead writers of the common standards had videotaped sample lessons, but even some of those who had worked on them couldn't tell me where I could find any more than a couple lessons. Eventually, I found a bunch on the website of the Council of Chief State School Officers' group that focuses on common-standards implementation. The link on its page takes you to a YouTube video collection of lessons in math and English/language arts, put together by the James B. Hunt Institute, which has worked to promote the common standards. And judging by the number of times these videos have been viewed, I'm not the only one who had a hard time finding them.

The New York state department of education has assembled a clearinghouse of resources for the common core, as well. One page on that site is devoted to curriculum exemplars, which include sample units in math and English/language arts. It also has a series of videos explaining key aspects of the common standards, including a sample lesson by David Coleman, one of the two lead writers of the English/language arts standards, on Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address." Presumably, more of these clearinghouses will crop up as states and districts develop them.

Ed Weeks' writer rightly questioned how much of this type of material will be available for free once the standards are fully adopted, and how much will be produced for a price by for-profit entities, adding additional cost to the education system.
The consortia have articulated plans to make a boatload of resources available for free, in centralized locations (although not without controversy, since some see the federal funding of that work as blurring the line drawn to protect local decision making). How much states and districts will have to invent [or buy] for themselves, and whether that is actually a good thing, will bear watching.
Assuming the laws of supply and demand will apply to these hard to find materials, their price is likely to rise steeply as the deadline to begin teaching the standards draws closer.

There is still time for teachers to develop these plans on their own which they will no doubt be scrambling to do. I can't help wondering, if all these promises about free lesson plans and video resources do come to fruition, why would we need to send our kids to a brick and mortar school? We could just use these resources and teach this stuff at home. And if teachers are just going to use preset plans and video instruction, will we even need people with special teaching degrees to lead the classroom? Choose to have, yes. But NEED? Maybe not so much.

For those who are interested, the SMARTER Balanced consortium appendices contain draft content specifications with examples of the kinds of questions students are likely to see on the assessments the group is designing. (See Appendix D for the English/language arts, and Appendix C for math.)

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