Thursday, April 19, 2012

Common Core, Uncommon Assumptions

I have, in general, been in support of the Common Core. I'd like it if every child in this country had the opportunity to learn from the Core Knowledge curriculum, especially in the early grades; I've witnessed the chaos and despair that results from students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and then receiving substandard educations. Common Core is at least one small step towards unifying curriculum in this country, which, in general and in theory, could be a good thing.

But recently, I started to worry. A few of my colleagues and I sat down with a draft of a "performance-based assessment" that is aligned to the Common Core. This assessment came with a pair of nonfiction texts about "green consumption." A fine topic, but one that would need to be taught carefully and explicitly to many of the students we teach in order for them to be successful with it. I would bet money right now that maybe 2 of my current students could define "locavore." My colleagues and I completed a gap analysis of this task and quickly became overwhelmed and, I think it's fair to say, concerned by the prospect that something like this could appear on a Regents exam, or whatever they're going to be calling the Regents exam, in 2014.

The cultural bias in these pieces was blatant to teachers who teach in high-poverty schools. How many of our students, for example, know what a "thread count" is in a set of sheets, or even know how much a car-seat cover or a pound of pomegranates should cost? Yet all of these assumptions and more were built into the texts. And the assessment that emerged from these texts is the one by which our students, and of course we ourselves, will be judged.

If we're going to take all this time and money and effort to totally revamp all the state tests, can we at least not design ones that poor kids might have a fighting chance at passing?

blog comments powered by Disqus