Monday, February 8, 2016

The "Time Loop" of Opposition to the Common Core

In today’s New York Times, Paul Krugman opines that the current GOP presidential contenders represent the “time loop party” who preen on debate podia and spout “canned talking points that are divorced from reality.” Krugman is referring to Saturday’s spectacle where Marco Rubio robotically chanted pre-packaged streams of verbiage. Also on his list are Republican rituals of calling votes to repeal ObamaCare,  describing tax cuts as a “universal economic elixir,” and absurd platforms on immigration.

Krugman could have GOP positions on the Common Core in his catalogue of “doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication."  (John Kasich gets a pass on this.) At this point, opposing higher standards for K-12 students is about as divorced from reality as building a wall around Mexico.  Sure, it’s slow: for example, Carol Burris, avid anti-standards and accountability hawk and Diane Ravitch acolyte, continues to intone against the Common Core. So do the members of the Badass Teachers Association, who blindly snipe at this most recent step towards educational equity. But, as Leslie Brody reports today in the Wall Street Journal,
While political jousting has dominated much of the debate about the Common Core, a cadre of teachers are eager to advance what they see as a more powerful and consistent set of expectations. Some post their new lesson plans on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word.It’s happening. Teachers, parents, and school officials are experiencing the value of standards that teach critical thinking skills, rather than rote memorization. 
Brody writes,
East Moriches, a small, middle-income district about 75 miles east of New York City, switched to the Common Core early on. Superintendent Charles Russo, a vocal supporter, used to get hate mail, with some calling him an idiot for his stance. 
He believes the standards brought results, including the elementary school’s National Blue Ribbon Award in 2014. On tests for grades three through eight, the district outperformed the state last year, with 47% proficient in language arts, compared with 31% statewide. The district, though, has a lower share of at-risk students. 
The standards aim to be “fewer, clearer and deeper” than prior guidelines, to prod students to read passages closely to find evidence for their arguments and to use more technical and nonfiction texts than in the past, among other goals.
Raising expectations for all children comes with a core dilemma: how do we square commitment to college and career-ready standards with America’s long history of awarding high school diplomas based on attendance rather than proficiency? I don’t know the answer to that question.

But decrying meaningful and necessary educational course content for all children, as well as assessments that measure student growth, is its own “time loop,” as Krugman has it, “symbolic and substance free.” We deserve more than “empty suits” on educational issues and so do our kids.

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