As I continue to read the news about states exiting the Common Core standards to reclaim standard-setting autonomy, I am reminded of a quote from a participant from our SSHRC study on literacy teacher educators:
“You’re teaching the student. You’re not teaching the curriculum. The student should be in the middle and to try to stretch the curriculum to fit around that.” (Melissa)
The Common Core Standards are national U.S. standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics grades K-12. The implementation of these standards began in 2011. However, in the past few months three states have formally withdrawn from the Common Core Standards (Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina). Recently, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana made public that he was also looking to formally withdraw from the Common Core Standards.
This turbulent time in the implementation of national standards reminds me of the stance several of our literacy teacher educators had on teaching directly to national mandates. Several had lived through many curricula, and so tended to veer away from explicitly teaching the curriculum. Rather, they emphasized with their student teachers that the focus should always be on the student.
Below is a chart summarizing U.S. resisting the implementation of the Common Core:
We are just back from New York and New Jersey where we interviewed a number of teachers who are part of our longitudinal study. Since we have been following these teachers for 7 years, I (Clare) feel I know them well. These are very able educators who are now working in very difficult conditions because of external constraints. I heard stories of them having to submit DETAILED lesson plans regularly (for the following two weeks), being observed/assessed five times per year, having to change their programs in order to comply with the Common Core, assessing the children an excessive amount, having to forgo pedagogies/books/activities they know are what the children need, and tying their teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests. All of these supposed measures to improve education in fact are undermining education. These teachers are spending so much time testing and writing lesson plans, they do not have time to actually work with the children. And they know what needs to be done and how to do it! All reported HIGH levels of stress. They are being deprofessionalized as these overbearing compliance methods are imposed on them. The phrase, lack of respect, was uttered over and over again by them. When asked the question — If you had to do it over again, would you become a teacher? – the responses were disheartening. Most said no and many said they are actively thinking about other careers. What has happened to education in the U.S.?