Common Core

Common Core. These two words together have created a very divisive conversation regarding education in the United States. From the news reports, to the Facebook posts of the type of assignments, to the reaction to the new testing formats in schools, the Common Core has many who see only the negative elements of these standards. There is, however, space within the new standards for teacher freedom that has not been available at all since No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002, especially with the new education act removing the high stakes testing as the sole measure of improvement and funding.

The Common Core has been presented as a bi-partisan, state-led initiative, though we learned in the class that it was in fact spearheaded by an organization that has made efforts to obscure its connections to national organizations. These organizations have a myriad of specific interests that they are poised to profit greatly from through the revised testing and the ease purchasing blanket, corporate driven curriculum might seem to provide in an effort to meet the new standards. So while the federal government does not control the specific curriculum in various districts under Common Core, the education publishing and education testing companies have positioned themselves in the prime spot to step in to help local districts with the changeover.

Despite the influence of the corporations, Common Core contains some places of hope. If people look at the Common Core through a lens other political advocates hold, such as Saul Alinsky, openings for the creation of a desirable predominate curriculum become apparent. Critical thinking has a preeminent focus under the Common Core standards, and creative lesson planning is encouraged from teachers. Hearing how El Sol, a district charter in Santa Ana, implements project learning across disciplines that meets Common Core standards confirmed that teachers can create curricula that they want. And while standardized tests remain, there is space to approach them from different places.

The local school districts also regain privileged positions of power in decision making by being the level that makes the final decisions regarding the methods by which the standards will be assessed. Hearing from Superintendent Michael Matsuda about the ways that Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) has implemented the Common Core helped to move the discussion out of the theoretical field and into evaluation of the practical. The way AUHSD has approached Common Core seems to better match the best intentions of the advocates.

Though there is a flicker of potential hope, the degree to which teacher autonomy is regained seems to be heavily reliant on the district and authorities above the teacher. Advocates can work to make the Common Core into something better than NCLB, though the success will rely on vigilance against the pull to work against changing what has become status quo. But through local examples of AUHSD and El Sol, the reality of creating and implementing a desired curriculum has been exemplified.