California’s Common Core: A promise or a dream (First of two parts)
By Peter Schurmann
For New America Media
(Editor’s Note: In 2010, California became one of 45 states to adopt a new set of national education standards in English and math for all students. Full implementation across the state is scheduled for 2014. Described as “the most far-
Arun Ramanathan: It’s such an old argument, and to some degree it’s a racist argument. The notion that if you heighten standards for poor kids and kids of color, and then you also improve and enhance the teaching that they receive is somehow a negative … I actually think it’s the low expectations that hamper students and that are far worse than saying, “We’re going to have high expectations and then we’re going to teach to those high expectations.” When people put their preconceptions about poor kids and kids of color aside and do that kind of teaching, you see kids as young as kindergarteners and first graders engaging in a whole different way, learning in a whole different way. I think that’s what the Common Core is about. When you change your expectations, you have a huge chance to transform the lives of children, particularly their educational lives.
NAM: How do you respond to those who say the Common Core is an example of government overreach in standardizing education?
Ramanathan: The Common Core is not about standardization … it is about simplification and depth. The essence of the standards is that they allow teachers to take a smaller but more in-
Ramanathan: The success of Common Core is going to hinge on us rethinking the way that we instruct and construct curriculum. If we take Common Core and just run it through the same standard curriculum that we’ve used … if we give teachers three or four professional development sessions and then say, “Hey, this is the Core. Go at it!” … if we just use iPads as glorified test booklets, nothing will happen. But if we use these new standards in the right way, if teachers are able to utilize the standards in a way that allows them to differentiate instruction in the classroom to the real diversity of learners; if teachers are able to use technology to accelerate and support that; and if they’re able to cross-
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