Common Core has become a much talked about topic over the last few months. This post is the 2nd in a series dealing with the different aspects of Common Core.
$how Me the Money
The first post in this series dealt with explaining what exactly Common Core is. I want to state (for the record) that although I disagree with many aspects of Common Core, I do not think it's proponents are evil people who are bent on exerting control over the minds of our children. I have found that those who believe this is a good thing for education really do have a sincere belief that the answer to what is wrong with our educational system lies in the implementation of an untested curriculum. I have also found that very few people who actually support Common Core have actually been classroom teachers, which is somewhat ironic.
When I think about education, I am reminded of the words of Solomon when he says "there is nothing new under the sun." I have now been in education for over 15 years. In my time I have seen "new math" come and go as well as various iterations of the "whole language" approach to teaching reading (this approach has come and gone multiple times over the last 40 years). I am confident that both of these had aspects that were valuable, but any school that jumped on the bus and adopted either of these programs had adverse affects on their students. It didn't take long for teachers to realize that phonics is a very important part of reading instruction. What is different about the "new" things in education that have come, gone, and come again over the years is that schools, or school systems were free to move away from things if they were not working for their students. This is not the case with Common Core. Standards and curriculum are now connected to "Race to the Top" monies which are also connected to high-stakes test scores and teacher evaluations that are also based (in part) on student performance on these test. It is a vicious cycle and a classic example of getting the "cart before the horse". The high stakes testing is driving the curriculum, which in-turn is driving the instruction. If it is not on the test, then it is not of value. This is one (of the many) problems with Common Core. I have talked with many public school teachers (several of whom have their children enrolled in our school) and I have yet to have a conversation with any of them who believe this is the answer. Our teachers are being forced to do something that even they know will not work. The problem (in my opinion) is not with the local school systems, but rather at the state and federal levels. There are so many layers to this problem that the water is constantly being muddied. Even in Tennessee there seems to be confusion. Mrs. Creed and I went to training conducted by the State Department of Education. The purpose of this training was to make sure that we could continue to conduct the observations needed so that our teachers could keep their state licensure. We were continually told different things in regards to how these laws would affect private schools and our teachers. The state has yet to clearly articulate what we are (or will be) required to do to make sure our teachers can keep their professional licenses. The have continued to push back the implementation of the observation system because they can not agree on many parts to it.
So, now that I have rambled for several minutes I still have not answered the question of "why are we doing this?" I have become somewhat of a cynic when it comes to things like this. The most powerful people in education are the textbook publishers. Who stands to gain the most from having to write new textbooks geared to these new standards that are adopted at every school in America? It is painfully obvious why they are pushing so hard for this. If you are really interested in this, the Huffington Post has done some amazing writing about the money behind Common Core implementation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded tens of millions (if not hundreds) in grants to organizations that are helping make this implementation take place. I would encourage you to Google the term - "Common Core Funding" to see the hundreds of pieces written by virtually every reputable news organization in the country including The New York Times and The Washington Post. I am convinced that what may be good business for textbook companies may not be what is the best business for our students and that is the sad part to this.