November 18, 2014
Today was slated to be a day of protest for parents who oppose the Common Core State Standards by keeping their children home from school. There are several Facebook protest pages and early news reports tell of some parents nationwide keeping their children home from school in protest. A quick search on Facebook using the term "Common Core" brings up dozens of pages that say "Stop Common Core in (fill in your state)". From a quick look today there were, on average, about 1,000 "likes" per page with a few pages with 5,000-7,000 "likes". Most of the sites claim they want local control over curriculum and are concerned that a one-size-fits-all curriculum hurts student's passion for learning and side-steps students' different needs.
The protests make me wonder: What are people really concerned about? What does this mean for language learners?
Standards or Standardization?
First, the protests and concerns that have gained increased media attention come from educators and parents in New York and Long Island who seemed to be concerned about standardization and less about having standards. These protests questioning standardization are long overdue given much of the curriculum I have seen in K-12 schools in the past 20 years across the country is so similar that you could close your eyes in a 2nd grade classroom in Utah and then open them in one in California and you'd likely see uncanny similarities. As a long-time educator of language learners and students living in poverty, I have always had these same concerns over a one-size-fits-all curriculum - especially when most curriculum does not take into the consideration the specific needs of students learning a second language nor value what immigrant students and students living in poverty bring to school. In other words, standardization of the curriculum is nothing new.
Standards or Testing?
Second, are we protesting the standards themselves or the fact that they are (will be) linked to a high-stakes test? I think it is important to differentiate between the two concerns. Is it uniform standards that people are against or linking those standards to a test that teachers increasingly must teach to given teacher accountability measures? What would happen without standards? What would happen without a bubble test?
These are important questions that all of us should be able to answer so that we can support an educational system that will serve as many diverse students as possible - offering every child a path to seeking freedom and happiness.
Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.