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Commentary: Understanding “Common Core” Backlash

Alexander Russo | June 26, 2013

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Core Curriculum P20 Flow ChartEarlier today, veteran LAUSD teacher and Incubator School founder Sujata Bhatt posted some thoughts about the backlash against a set of new standards and tests called the Common Core: 

There’s been a lot of hullaballoo suddenly about the Common Core. Symptomatic of the strange political times we live in, the Tea Party Right and the social justice Left have found common ground on the purported dangers of Common Core standardization. What both sides miss, however, is the creative power of the Common Core: its potential to bring the professionalism in curricular creation and curation back to teachers.

In the past decade-plus of NCLB, teachers have lost much creative professional ground. States and districts have worked to ‘teacherproof’ curricula such that in many places administrators boasted of being able to leave one classroom mid-lesson and observe that very same lesson continue in an adjacent room. I still chafe at a note I received from an administrator after an Open Court observation: “Great job engaging the students with phonics, but you were supposed to be teaching short-vowel ‘ck’ spellings rather than short vowel ‘dge’” (actually, according to my scripted lesson plan, I wasn’t).

The more states and districts tried to control curriculum, the more power became concentrated in the hands of a few textbook publishers and the populous states whose standards dictated the content of those textbooks. And the less say teachers had in what was taking place in our classrooms. The less teachers were treated as professionals.

I believe the backlash to the Common Core is in part a holdover from these days of hyper-control. Teachers, beaten down by the regime of NCLB, continue to chafe under any threat of standardization. In doing so, however, we are in danger of overlooking its potential.

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Previous guest commentaries:  Why Teachers Might Leave a Triggered SchoolWhy Fixing Teacher Prep is So DifficultTeachers’ Letter to Mayor Garcetti


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