We are hearing a lot from some Kentucky educators about how great the Common Core State Standards are. That includes this recent piece, “Educators say Kentucky is on the right track with Common Core standards,” by Herald-Leader intern reporter Matt Young. His article ran a few days ago on June 15, 2014 in the Herald-Leader in Lexington and was echoed in part on Page A8 of the print edition of the Kentucky Enquirer on June 17, 2014 as “U of L president backs Common Core.”
According to Herald-Leader article, Kentucky educators like Sue Cain, college readiness and developmental education initiative coordinator for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, are saying things like, “People with concerns about Common Core do not truly understand it.”
Well, that is an interesting blanket dismissal, but the truth is that a lot of concerned people such as Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Stanford Mathematics Professor James Milgram understand a lot about Common Core. Whether Cain and others are willing to admit it, Stotsky, Milgram and many more are raising valid concerns. Common Core will either have to deal with those issues or face a fate similar to many other education fad reforms Kentucky has endured since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.
Despite comments in the Herald-Leader article, confusion about Common Core isn’t exclusive to the anti-Core camp, either.
Assuming the reporter understood her correctly, Cain said “states could alter up to 15 percent of the standards to fit individual needs.”
Actually, an agreement signed by Governor Beshear and other governors in 2009 (online here) says Common Core will comprise no less than 85 percent of all our education standards. We can only add a bit to them (up to 15 percent, whatever that actually means – the concept of how you measure a percentage of a standards package is very unclear). However, there is no permission in the agreement to change what is already in the Common Core.
Cain also says the Common Core was written to be adjusted. Really?
If that were actually true, why was Common Core copyrighted?
Even more to the point, why didn’t the private DC lobbying groups that own the copyright set up a permanent, professional organization to collect feedback and make necessary adjustments? Such a professional service group could have helped answer increasing questions about what Common Core really intended (e.g. is the current resurfacing of fuzzy math instruction really intended with Common Core?).
The absence of a standards service group in Washington is one of the more serious problems with the Common Core. It is a recipe for a static, no-growth education program. It could also make the Common Core less “common” if states make changes on their own, largely defeating the whole point for having a uniform set of standards.
Whether or not Common Core activists such as Cain comprehend these issues, I understand they pose real problems.
One last thought. The article closes with some comments about how reported increases in Kentucky’s college and career readiness rates indicate Common Core is working (Among other things, the article does not show the currently reported 2009-10 rate – it was 34.0 percent according to the 2012-13 State Report Card, accessible from this link).
For one thing, it’s really too soon to say anything definitive about Common Core success, but the College and Career Ready statistic cited as evidence is currently under some question, as well.
Until we know how much the COMPASS test contributed to the overall improvement in College and Career Readiness rates, it is definitely premature to claim success in this area. And, education officials in Kentucky should know that regardless of their position on Common Core State Standards.