Common Core

'Are Teachers Ready for the Common Core?' Answer: A Resounding 'No'

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Frustration
LaurMG / Wikimedia Commons

The Boston Globe ran a great story yesterday headlining the question: "Are Teachers Really Ready for the Common Core?" After reading the story, the only possible verdict is absolutely not.

Common Core sets new standards for what students should learn and how they should learn it. But putting that into practice is more difficult than waving a magic standards wand. A complete, forced transformation of the American education system mandated by national bureaucrats requires new textbooks, testing materials, and training for teachers.

On that last front, it looks like teachers are somewhat averse to throwing out everything they have been doing and learning a new method just because Bill Gates thinks its great. From The Boston Globe:

Despite research that says one-time workshops and short-term training sessions have poor track records for changing teacher practices, they continue to be the most common form of professional development?—?even now that the Common Core is supposed to be upending the old way of doing things, says [teacher Allison Gulamhussein]. While 90 percent of teachers participated in short-term training, just 22 percent observed classrooms in other schools, according to a 2009 study published by Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council), an international organization focused on increasing effective teacher training. Furthermore, the same study found that fewer than half of teachers who participated in training considered it useful. Still, districts shell out money on professional development, as much as 5 percent of the total budget in some places before the recession. Districts also get financial help for this purpose from the federal government and spent more than $1 billion in federal funds on such training in the 2012-2013 school year. Boston's education department spent about $5.5 million on professional development in fiscal 2014, up nearly $500,000 from the previous year, according to documents the district publishes online. Officials say additional money is allocated for teacher training from other areas of the budget.

Experts argue that this much is clear: If the Common Core is going to live up to expectations, teacher training needs to change, and fast.

The story evaluates teacher training programs in Massachusetts, a state that is by all accounts ahead of the curve on Core implementation. Still, many are skeptical that training helps at all—and even more are skeptical that the trainers themselves understand Common Core requirements.

Even if Common Core eventually boosts student performance—and the evidence of that is underwhelming—nobody in school today is going to benefit from it. Students will flounder under the instructions of teachers whose methods are misaligned to the curriculum, textbooks, and tests.

What a mess.

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  1. And the next thing you know, metaphorical train derailments everywhere.

    1. Hey, what are *literal* derailments, chopped liver?

  2. I heard someone insist yesterday that Common Core is only about standards and doesn’t change the methodology behind teaching different concepts.

    So were they lying, misinformed, or am I misinterpreting something?

    1. Some of the CC math methodology I’ve seen is rather “changed”.

    2. My understanding is the same as yours which is that Common Core is just a set of standards. Districts are free to implement them however they want.

      1. Found this on the common core website:

        Myth: The standards tell teachers what to teach.

        Fact: Teachers know best about what works in the classroom. That is why these standards establish what students need to learn but do not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards.

    3. They are technically correct. Common Core (or as its officially called: “Common Core State Standards”) is merely a set of things students should know. How the students are led to know these things is left up to the state and municipality. In reality, they will have an effect on the methodology because meeting those standards will drive curricular choices and assessment. Most school boards are lazy and pretty much adopt textbook manufacturers suggest curricular choices wholesale. Furthermore, textbook manufacturers attempt to market their textbooks as widely as possible (in addition to the fact that there are only a few of them: McGraw-Hill, Longman, Pearson, etc.)

    4. Common core is a only about standards and doesn’t change the methodology behind teaching different concepts . . . .

      Except there is an entire industry forming to provide training and methodologies to meet those standards. When people bitch about common core it is about these new methodologies (which look like crap to me).

      1. Every time I see one I see lots of people my age or older grousing about how they must be crap because they’re Not What I Learned.

        Except they also look, when I look at the specifics, just like methods I already use, for the most part, for quick mental math…

        1. The standards look sort of OK.

          But, the math methods I have seen are crap. I say that as a practicing engineer with a double major in physics and compsci and a minor in math. The methods are divorced from reality.

          The methods appear to be “alternate” concepts created by people that don’t actually understand math. When you point that out, you get told that you just don’t understand “teaching”.

          1. With the outcry against how CC Math is taught, you could make a pretty penny writing a textbook.

            1. That assumes that someone outside the industry could break into the industry.

              Maybe when I retire from engineering I will make it a personal crusade.

              1. Not necessarily. You’ve heard of Saxon Math, yes? Those textbooks are currently published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

                1. I really didn’t need that idea in my head. I have plenty of other things to do with my time 😉

                  But, maybe . . .

    5. They are misinformed; on the surface it doesn’t affect pedagogy so much as set a curriculum for who should know what when.

      But the what is not necessarily the what that was tought before. For example, my daughter is bringing home math homework that is fucking bizarre. Not only is she asked to solve a problem, she has to show she understands several different approaches to the problem. A case in point, she was given a word problem that required her to divide a number of apples among several people and identify how many apples each person got and how many were left over.

      After generating that answer, she was asked to write down the equation for solving the problem in two different ways.

      This caused her to blow a gasket; she already had found the answer, why this bullshit?!?

      Moreover, in an attempt to make math concepts more accessible, they are using improper terms, an expression is called a “math sentence” for example.

      If she pursues her interest in math, my daughter will have to learn a completely new vocabulary to replace the inexact baby talk they are being taught.

      Worse, the bullshit exercises are killing her love of math. She associates mathematics with annoying bullshit makework and not the thrill of discovery.

      Nice try Common Core! You’ve almost succeeded in killing my daughter’s interest in math!!!! Fortunately, I can show her the beauty you are trying to obscure under a mound of brutalist concrete!

      1. I, for one, actually like many Brutalist buildings.

        However, I can see how living in proximity to Boston would sour one toward that architectural style.

    6. Standards drive content drive methodology.

      Jeebus, you actually fell for the idea that by “setting standards” for a system you aren’t dictating input and output from the system?

      If the standards don’t change anything, then why have them?

  3. Here in California, everything is going like an assembly line. All methods of teaching are the same, all textbooks/workbooks are the same. Now if they can only get all the same students, everything would be peachy. Teachers have more or less become robots – there really isn’t much to distinguish one from another. The CC teaching and handouts are from EngageNY (yeah, that NY). There are NO books for CC here. And it really isn’t about the local school board. The Dept of ED says CC is the way so tough shit if you want out.

    1. “Robots. Teach these Children.”

      “Yes, Lord Business.”

  4. Don’t tell me another top-down, one size fits all policy is failing yet again. From what I read, even here from Tony, American Idiotic Socialist, et al, that while all historic attempts at top down, central control may have failed, the current leaders and their supporters are so much smarter than previous human generations, success is assured.

    Yet still failure?!?! Surely he jest!

  5. Cost aside, another prime reason that public teachers are trained with mini-workshops is that 99% of their time is already spent trying to satisfy existing bureaucratic requirements. I have never seen an occupation in which one’s time is so strictly budgeted.

    In an effort to standardize and make our public schools less crummy, our State’s education department has “voluntold” all elementary schools to use a new lesson plan format… and it looks like it was designed by a tax accountant. Now our teachers are spending hours more per week doing data entry that masquerades as lesson planning.

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