Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Send Common Core to the Scrap Heap

It's nice to see that Michael Mulgrew has evidently seen the light regarding the nonsense that is Common Core. But maybe, if there's a monument to idiocy being erected in your town square, you ought to protest before it's actually put up. Once it's up, you can always ask that they paint the clown's nose a different color, but the fact is the monument is there.

And so it is with the Common Core standards and the state's attempt to paint lipstick on the proverbial pig that it is. We've now invested a whole lot of time talking about the "rollout" and pretending that it's not the actual program that's a problem. It was entirely predictable that the state would dab a little paint on this highly flawed product and say, "There. Now it's fine. Good luck with that."

I certainly anticipated that, but Mulgrew did not. I've been to DAs where he said we were finally getting that long-awaited input that we needed to make all things right. The problem is, when you've got a product as fundamentally flawed as Common Core, a touch-up is not gonna do the job. There's a fundamental issue with anything based in a philosophy that no one gives a crap what you think or how you feel.

Were I to articulate this approach with my students, I'd likely be up on charges of verbal abuse under CR A-421. And I'd deserve it. Would you tolerate a teacher telling your kid she doesn't give a crap how he feels or what he thinks? I wouldn't. And yet we have an entire nation bribed by Arne Duncan to embrace that philosophy. And while it's nice that Mulgrew has finally come to his senses, just a few years ago he was going to punch us in the face and push our faces in the dirt if we dared get between him and his beloved Common Core.

We're sitting on a brief moratorium, in which Common Core test scores will not be used against students or teachers (unless you're a high school teacher or student, in which case, too bad for you). To hear Mulgrew speak, you'd think it was because of the UFT's activism. But if you've been reading the newspapers, it appears to be a result of the actual activism of opt-out, which has managed to keep a whole lot of students from taking these ridiculous tests. Of course Mulgrew's army of loyalty oath signers not only fails to encourage opt-out, but also actively criticizes those of use who do.

Given that, I question Mulgrew's credibility. I can't speak to the math, but there's something fundamentally wrong with our approach to reading. We ought not to be having children doing close reading, looking at little bits of whatever, and answering endless questions about little pieces of nothing. We ought to be seducing them into loving to read, via high interest materials that make them want to do more. And it ought to be largely based on--get this--what they think and how they feel. Materials ought to be selected precisely on that basis. When they love to read, then you can ask them to find arcane answers no one cares about. Or better yet, you can forget that entirely and have them do such things only when they are actually important.

I'm happy that Mulgrew mentioned ESL and how English learners ought to be judged on a different standard. But even ELLs learn on the same principle I set out above. They need high-interest materials and from there they can move on to tackle general academics. I'm afraid state enterprises like Part 154 move them even farther from that place, removing 33-100% of direct English instruction in favor of giving them a little bit of language assistance during core subjects.

It's now official UFT policy that we favor more, rather than less, instruction in English for ELLs. This is due to a resolution that I had a hand in writing and passing. However we've yet to do anything to change the directive, Part 154, that has ESL teachers running around like so many headless chickens. I've sat on a few committees, and I will be on a panel at a UFT event on October 29th. I hope to ask Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa directly how she plans to fix this.

Meanwhile, it's gonna take a lot more than us saying we don't care for the touch-up to Common Core. It needs no touch-up, and it needs no overhaul. It needs to be burned and buried, and the ground under which it's buried needs to be salted so nothing may ever grow in its place. It's hurtful nonsense, based on a falsehood. If Bill Gates really believed in it, he wouldn't send his kids to a school that doesn't practice it. Nor would Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, or John King.

If it isn't good enough for their kids, it isn't good enough for ours either. Let's consign it to the dustbin of history where it belongs.
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