5 Reasons the Common Core Destroys Education

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Common Core State Standards

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

While so-called education leaders–Secretary Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee–continue to tell anyone who will listen that the Common Core is just what education needs, many states are reconsidering the value of the CCSS, while others are dumping the Common Core entirely.

What are some of the broad stroke issues with the Common core? It is costly, calling for tests to be administered by computers. Most teachers hate being ruled by verbose, poorly-written standards. The only winners in the Common Core era are the publishers, who churn out workbooks that do little more than cost school districts tens of thousands of dollars and teach students how to memorize facts (don’t be fooled by people who say the Common Core creates thinkers). These problems, though, are merely Common Core CliffsNotes.

5 ways the Common Core destroys education

1-Standardization is a bad pill: The idea that standardization is a good thing is one of the greatest myths in education. If standardization is the best way to educate, why isn’t Harvard working feverishly to be just like Cleveland State? Why aren’t all schools built to the exact same specifications? Why isn’t every teacher a woman, with her hair in a bun, wearing cat eye glasses and an ankle-length black dress? The obvious answer is because this is no longer 1940. Standardization stifles creativity and autonomy. Standardization is a lemon–a bill of goods that bureaucrats and the publishing lobby hope ignorant shareholders are willing to buy.

The only thing close reading is likely to do is confuse students, especially reluctant readers, and make them hate learning, in general, and reading, in particular.
2-Common Core State Standards and high stakes tests handcuff teachers: The Common Core wants third graders to test for nearly 10 hours a year; ninth graders test for more than 11 hours. Some might think this isn’t much. Math and reading teachers at my school spent many weeks preparing for a single two-hour test. For 10 hours of testing (four tests over the course of a school year) a teacher might dedicate 8-10 weeks of intense test preparation. Suddenly, about one-fourth of our students’ school year is spent on Common Core standards, test prep and actual testing. So, what do we give up for this drive toward so-called college and career readiness? The shocking answer to this is found in reason 5.

3-Close reading discourages reading: What the hell is close reading, anyway. I envision a room filled with 30 children, their faces perched two inches from a textbook, scanning the words as closely as possible. Ridiculous? Maybe. But line up 10 teachers anywhere in the world and ask them what close reading is, and the odds are that no more than one or two will be able to define close reading, as Common Core authors would like. Here’s how the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) defines close reading:

Close, analytic reading stresses engaging with a text of sufficient complexity directly and examining meaning thoroughly and methodically, encouraging students to read and reread deliberately.

That certainly clarifies matters. So, grab the nearest book and examine it methodically. Finished? Now, reread it deliberately. Congratulations! You’re a close reader. The only thing close reading is likely to do is confuse students, especially reluctant readers, and make them hate learning, in general, and reading, in particular.

4-The Common Core discourages novels and most fiction: The pro Common Core folks (who are these people, anyway) will argue that all teachers should be providing nonfiction opportunities, leaving the fiction to the English teachers. Still, the Common Core reading goal is 70 percent nonfiction. If we translate this to books, we’re telling kids, “You can read 100 books this year, but only 30 can be fiction.” Okay, you may say, 30 is still a lot. So, your avid high school reader scurries off to the library to grab some classic novels. Not so fast! With the Common Core’s use of Lexile scores to measure appropriate reading levels, the selection dwindles significantly. Stories like Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five are acceptable, according to the Common Core, for, get this, fourth graders; don’t try to read these in a high school class. Why is it that people who claim they want to improve learning have no idea how to encourage reading? (Oh, right, there’s no money in that.)

5-The Common Core mandate for college and career readiness steals opportunities for enrichment: In April, a principal in New York canceled a Kindergarten play, so 5-year-olds could spend more time preparing for college and career. Can you imagine a better example of how the Common Core destroys education?

Enough said.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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