While the New York State United Teachers and the National Education Association have withdrawn their support for the Common Core State Standards, it’s important to recognize that the teachers’ actions had nothing to do with the standards themselves. This blowback is yet another example of how concerns about implementation are being conflated with the actual merit of the standards.
Even among educators committed to serving children in poverty and kids already performing far below their potential, there is widespread agreement that these rigorous standards will help move more of our young people toward true college and career readiness. The recently released Primary Sources survey found that nearly 75 percent of teachers expressed enthusiasm for the Common Core. Further, more than half said they thought the standards would be positive for most students.
What many object to are the rushed timelines for implementing the standards and tests, a lack of adequate support for teaching the standards, and the simultaneous rollout of new educator evaluation systems based partly on student performance on these brand new tests.
These are valid concerns. Expecting educators and young people to adjust to such sweeping changes within a year or two, as do current federal and state policies, is unrealistic. But our response to these concerns can’t be abandoning the standards themselves, for in doing so we would abandon the best chance we have had in a very long time to focus all of our schools on the things that will really matter for young people after they graduate. Instead, we need a more balanced and reasonable approach to bringing the standards to classrooms, schools, and communities.
State and federal leaders should follow the lead of states like Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Connecticut and wait before using student results on the new assessments for educator evaluations, student promotion, or graduation. These leaders also need to set new expectations for school and district accountability —expectations that are based on data from robust assessments.
Ultimately, the way to ensure that the Common Core’s impact meets its intended goal is to seek regular and systematic feedback from those charged with bringing the standards to life for students. Teams of teachers, principals, and district support staff at the local level must be given quality materials, classroom support, and time to work together. This type of meaningful collaboration will support more successful applications of the standards in real classrooms with real students. Learning from these successes and challenges is essential in maximizing the promise of the standards.
Abandoning the Common Core is taking the easy way out. Supporting effective implementation takes more thought, persistence, flexibility, and collaboration. These are the very characteristics we hope our young people will demonstrate. We owe it to them to model these same behaviors.
Sonja Brookins Santelises is vice president of K–12 policy and practice at The Education Trust. She was previously the chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools and assistant superintendent for pilot schools for Boston Public Schools.