Read more about Rick’s thoughts on education reform here.
Learn more about Pedro’s work on education here.
Frederick Hess v. Pedro Noguera
Policy and Politics
My skepticism is based on my doubts that the new standards will be implemented properly, and already I am seeing clear evidence that my concerns are legitimate. New York implemented the assessments this spring before providing schools with curriculum materials or training to teachers. Several other states have done the same thing. The frustration that results from placing the assessments before the preparation is likely to encourage a backlash. With the exception of Kentucky, which does seem to be taking a more thoughtful approach, I haven’t heard of states doing the work necessary to insure that schools will be ready to deliver the Common Core. Hence, I am doubtful that this change will produce the leap forward that advocates have argued will occur.
To the specific issue at hand, I think we’re very much in agreement. One of education’s longtime pathologies has been the search for “game changers” and can’t miss solutions. We remember the ludicrously strong claims made for the No Child Left Behind Act: small high schools, comprehensive school reform, site-based management, detracking, charter schooling, and so many other attractive ideas. Some of these have helped modestly, others have disappointed; but all have also had real costs, and none have delivered on the grandiose promises of their energetic promoters.
What goes wrong? I think it’s one part naivete, one part good intentions, and one part impatience. The Common Core is suffering from all of these. I’m sympathetic to the Common Core project. I get it. I think it is reasonable that states ought to have common standards in reading and math, that it could make it easier to craft terrific instructional materials, improve teacher preparation and professional development, while also facilitating transparency and accountability. But adopting the standards, or even the assessments, doesn’t make any of this happen—it simply creates an opening. Delivering on all this is an enormous, expensive, frustrating lift, one that would require broad political support, careful attention to policy, and a taste for hard work.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much that impresses me on these counts. For most of the past four or five years, the advocates have been lethargic when it comes to public engagement and dismissive of their critics. They’ve seemed disinterested in addressing the kinds of practical challenges you flag. More than a few seem to have already grown bored of the Common Core, and are now rushing off to embrace the push for pre-K or some other new enthusiasm. Right now, I don’t see much cause to expect that the Common Core would be “game changing.” I see more likelihood of half-hearted implementation, headline-grabbing glitches with the assessment technology, parental unrest with huge drops in reported school performance, and general discontent. I fear the most likely “game change” will be the need to spend the second half of this decade cleaning up from the disruptions caused by the missteps of the Common Core enthusiasts.