There is a scene in Hamlet where he and his mother have been watching a play. In the play the Player Queen declares very demonstratively that she will never remarry if her husband were to pass. Hamlet says to his mother, “Madam, how like you this play?”. Her response is the immortal, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” This best illustrates how I feel about Common Core State Standards.
Previously I’ve mentioned that my wife is a literary coach. So we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the standards around my house. The great thing about being married to a literary coach is that you get a sense of perspective. Countless times I would get all worked up about one of the standards and she’d look at me and say all that means is blah blah blah. I’ve come to understand that these standards are very open to interpretation.
The other nice thing about having a coach in the house is that they have to find the positive in something they might not whole heartedly embrace. Now let’s make sure we are clear here. I’m not saying my wife is for or against Common Core. That’s her own position to share in her own manner. What I’m saying is that where I might look to criticize, she looks to praise and there are some good things in the standards. Being able to measure kids across the country on a common metric could be good. Obviously promoting critical thinking is a positive. Like anything they are not all negative or positive.
One of the best conversations we’ve had about the standards came after an unpacking session. Her mother had taught for 35 years and so she got to sit with some of the veteran teachers that her mother knew. Their take on the standards was that this was the way we used to teach before NCLB. There was nothing revolutionary here. Just good old fashion teaching. Shocking huh? A return to a tried and true teaching methodology. I could support that.
Therein lies one of the major problems with Common Core. Supporters can’t leave it at that. Its got to be revolutionary. Listen to them talk and once we implement this the streets will be paved with gold and children will be qualified for every job by the time they are 8. Nothing like this has ever been attempted before. Which is just not true nor is the hyperbole necessary. Truth is, its off putting.
Every time I come to peace with the standards and start to think, “maybe they’re not a bad idea”, another op-ed from a chamber member appears screaming crisis if we don’t adopt. Immediately my BS detector kicks off and the doubts are back. Why the need to spend so much money convincing me how good these standards are. ? Surely if they are as “common-sense” as advertised I should be able to recognize that without a TV ad, a radio ad, newspaper ad, op-ed piece, or traveling caravan extoling its virtues.
The hyperbole is unsettling but its the money that particularly galls me. Supporters claim that Common Core will send student achievement to previously unreached heights. I don’t know about that but I do know if you took half the PR money and invested it in school nurses, tutors, classroom aides, or even technology, student achievement would soar. I recently looked at an itemized list of people in Tennessee who’ve received Race to the Top Money to promote Common Core and it is mind numbing.
There is over 200K dollars designated to “advise on the Common Core transition plan and directly lead and manage all aspects of the work.” There is easily another 5M dollars paid out to Common Core Coaches. That’s followed by another 270k plus to “advise on the Common Core transition plan”. Lets not forget 30k for Members of the Common Core Leadership Council. It’s all pretty mind boggling.
Now think about all those schools in dire need of capital projects. Think about all the schools that have mold problems. Then think about all the schools that have overcrowding issues. I would think that 5.5 million would go a long way towards improving those children’s learning experience. I bet you might even see some test scores go up . That 5.5 million is just the amount I have the patience to add up before I become disgusted. Trust me there is a whole lot more being spent.
That’s when I start to lean towards the opposition of Common Core standards. Its not the testing, which is bad enough. Its not the inappropriateness for K-3, which it is. It’s not the lack of teacher input, which is clear. It’s the money. Purely and simply the amount of money involved in the promoting and implementing of Common Core Standards is repulsive.
It is unimaginable to me that there is this kind of money floating around when districts are turning over every rock they can to find more money just to operate at a basic level. This spending is coming at a time when districts can’t afford to give teachers a 2% cost of living raise. We are spending money on promoting Common Core while we turn to charters to help ease our overcrowding situation because we can’t afford to build new schools. Districts are having to cut art and sports programs so they can scrape together money to buy PARRC compliant technology. The Governor of Tennessee says we owe it to our kids to press forward with Common Core while he refuses to fully fund the BEP. It’s absolutely obscene.
I was raised that if you wanted to know the truth about something, follow the money. If you follow the money on Common Core it doesn’t paint a great picture. I still think there is some good in the standards, but I think those that are promoting it blindly need to step back and assess their motives. Perhaps they should think about peeling a little of that PR money off and using for some things that we know will have a positive impact. Things like capital improvements, school nurses, guidance counselors, teachers aides, because the more you spend on TV ads, radio ads, op-ed pieces, PR campaigns, the more I think the lady doth protest too much.