I remember the question like it was yesterday. While in a conversation about her daughter’s math homework, my friend asked, “Why did teachers choose Common Core?” She was surprised at my answer.
The reality is teachers had very little input or vote in choosing Common Core State standards. Few classroom teachers served on the committee to write them. In addition, they were rushed through the majority of states with the carrot of additional funding for states who adopted them.
Surprisingly, this is the norm for the majority of education reform in recent years. Education reformers, most of whom are not teachers, push sweeping changes that sound good from the outside without educator input and little to no research on the effectiveness of such changes.
For example, the current push toward choice as a way to “help poor kids escape failing schools” continues to gain momentum, despite a lack of research to show it’s a viable solution.
In fact, I don’t know one teacher who believes education can be fixed by draining public schools of needed resources to increase choice and competition. Yet, we’re facing the increased possibility of doing just that on a nationwide scale.
Here is one teacher’s voice.
Those of us who teach children in situations of great difficulty don’t believe that the deep problems our students face can be solved by charter schools or vouchers. My students are often homeless, come to school hungry, don’t have consistent access to hygiene supplies, miss school due to health issues common to children in poverty, etc. Even if they received vouchers for the Catholic school down the street, that would not change the fact that they are sleeping in cars in junkyards and come to school unprepared to learn in so many ways. Obviously, that isn’t my whole population, but I teach in a district in which ⅓ of the population is either homeless or lives in substandard housing. ~Nancy Alvarado, 5th-grade teacher
While the blame for low achievement is often attributed to unions, bad teaching, and low standards, the real cause gets buried.
The number one cause of low academic achievement is poverty.
Research consistently confirms that low academic achievement is the result of poverty. In some urban areas, the child poverty level is 80% (the national average is an unacceptable 21%; in high-scoring Finland it is 5%).
When researchers control for the effect of poverty, American students’ performance on international tests is near the top of the world. This shows that low achievement is not due to poor teaching, low standards, or unions. The major cause is poverty. ~Stephen Krashen, The Secretary of Education’s First Priority
I personally know dozens of teachers who work relentlessly on behalf of children who face heartbreaking obstacles. Their dedication in the face of enormous obstacles is admirable, to say the least. And yet, when these teachers voice valid concerns they are dismissed as excuses, thus holding teachers accountable for factors they cannot control and silencing their voice in the process.
Alex Kotlowitz response to the 2012 Chicago teacher’s strike is relevant today as we are knocking on the door of huge shifts in funding from public schools to charters and private schools.
As we slash services in deeply impoverished communities and reduce school budgets, how can we expect that good teachers alone can improve the lives of poor children? Poverty, of course, can’t be an excuse for lousy teaching. But neither can excellent teaching alone be a solution to poverty. ~Alex Kotlowitz, Are We Asking Too Much From Our Teachers?
Decades of research, combined with input from educators, should at least give reason for pause before we move forward with unproven changes.
If we are to spend billions more dollars in an effort to “fix” public education, shouldn’t it be strategically allocated where it’s needed most? Why would we waste money on solutions that have no research to show they work? More importantly, why don’t we trust teachers to know what’s best for children?