We’ve heard from Frankfort (and even the Wall Street Journal) that Kentucky’s teachers are not speaking out much about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) problems. Well, maybe we are not hearing about our teachers’ issues because someone doesn’t want us to hear what’s being said.
A case in point: take a look at this comment from Page 15 in a never-released report from the American Institutes of Research (AIR):
One TL (Teacher Leader) in Kentucky described LDC (Literacy Design Collaborative) training provided by the state as piecemeal:
I hate to speak negatively of our state because I do think they have done some very positive things. But I also think that [it is bad to] just give pockets of information here, here, and here and not give the full training on something just giving you a taste of it to where you are not getting the full implementation of certain things- I think that causes problems. And I know that has caused issues…in my school with the LDC [tool] because I am, like, “That is not a module. You gave your kids a question, and they had to write about it. That is not a module.” But [the teachers say] “that is what they told us.”
(From: Cushing, Ellen, Fulbeck, Eleanor S., Potemski, Amy, “Implementing the Common Core, Supports for and Challenges in Using the Literacy Design Collaborative and the Mathematics Design Collaborative Tools,” American Institutes for Research [Unpublished])
Wow! Talk about confusion – coming from Frankfort – which our teachers know about – but Kentuckians are not hearing about!
It’s easy to see why someone would not want a report like this seeing the light of day.
There’s more of interest in this American Institutes for Research (AIR) report (Click the “Read more” link below to see some of that).
But, I cannot give you a link to the AIR document because there isn’t any. The AIR project director for this report says someone, maybe from one of the departments of education in Kentucky, Colorado or Louisiana where the Design Collaboratives AIR investigated are running, or maybe from the report’s funder, didn’t want this report released. The only reason I got a copy is because I submitted an open records request related to another AIR report and the Kentucky Department of Education sent this unreleased AIR document along with the other material. If that had not happened, you and I still would not know that teachers in Kentucky have some serious complaints about Common Core.
Kentucky teachers on the serious problem of “Scaffolding”
Whenever a very new education program replaces an older one, there needs to be careful planning for the transition. This is particularly true for something like the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), where the complete K to 12 education system has been radically revised.
Here’s the problem. Common Core has new standards for every grade level. And, the new CCSS standards for each grade level also assume that students have mastered the Common Core standards from the lower grades.
But, that just isn’t a valid assumption, at least not until 13 years have passed when Kindergarteners who started under Common Core finally get to the 12th grade. In the interim, there needs to be a process linking the students from their old education programs into the new CCSS program. Educators call that “Scaffolding.”
But, Common Core never included anything about scaffolding. The people who wrote the CCSS just assumed that – magically – a student entering the sixth grade this year would somehow retroactively master everything Common Core assumes he or she learned in Grades K to 5.
This is creating problems right here in Kentucky. How do I know? Here are comments from Page 20 in the AIR report from a Kentucky teacher:
Today, I had someone from another school district say, my sixth-grade teachers are looking at these standards, [say]ing, “I cannot teach the stuff that is in the sixth-grade standards because my kids do not have the foundational skills.” And [the students] are not going to have them unless they have been through [the Common Core] every single year up until then; …if you leave out one strand in a grade level, you miss a whole conceptual thing.
This is a serious problem I don’t think we’ve seen anything about in the public media. Of course, if reports with such comments are being suppressed, the media might not have any way to know there is an issue right here in Kentucky.
Here’s another quote from Page 12 in the suppressed report from a Kentucky teacher. This one discusses confusion in our elementary schools during the switch to Common Core about what is now required in elementary school math instruction:
You could have counted on one hand the number of math[ematics] teachers at the elementary level who knew what the shifts were in math[ematics]. They didn’t even know they [instructional shifts] existed.
Here is another Kentucky teacher’s comment from Page 14 in the AIR report:
Everything is so different because of the need to master these learning targets that are so much more aggressive than what we are used to.
On Page 15, the report has this telling statement about things Teacher Leaders in Kentucky told the research team from AIR:
In addition, teachers and TLs in Kentucky and Louisiana reported that districts did not always provide training for new (and new-to-the-district) teachers.
So, Kentucky’s teachers have been complaining about training and other serious Common Core problems. But, so far as the public is concerned, those teachers might as well have been talking to the wall. Just because rank and file Kentuckians have not heard much about teachers’ Common Core complaints in the Bluegrass State does not mean nothing is being said.
By the way, this is far from the first time that a report that riled education leaders has been waylaid, but that still doesn’t make this right.
Going forward, I am not going to be very supportive of the notion that Kentucky’s teachers are not speaking out about Common Core. Perhaps the only reason we are not hearing their complaints is because Kentucky’s teachers are too afraid to openly speak out for fear of retaliation. But, the problems are there. The American Institutes for Research’s unpublished report proves that.