Reading & Reacting: Are the new curriculum standards any better?

Photo: maths in classroom

maths in classroom – cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Charles Pieters

By Nick Pandolfo @ The Boston Globe Magazine

It seems like there should be a lot more of these kinds of articles in Massachusetts, asking this question in particular, but there haven’t been. There was some early debate and outrage about the Commonwealth’s decision to take the money and standards early on but it has subsided considerably. I suspect when the bills for the PARCC test starts begin arriving things will be on the boil once again

To his credit, Pandolfo is making an attempt at writing a meaningful feature article. He definitely has a good angle. Here he chronicles the complexity of the Common Core issue in the Commonwealth.

In the summer of 2010, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt Common Core. Since then, districts have begun implementing the new standards, with some now further along than others. About two-thirds of districts agreed to push for changes in line with federal Race to the Top grants…The change in Massachusetts comes amid a fierce political debate surrounding the Common Core standards, with some states taking steps this year to try to abandon them…But there is more to the debate in Massachusetts. With the state’s history of high standards and steadily rising test scores after the Education Reform Act of 1993 kicked in, questions here centered more on whether it was a good idea to change what we were already doing well. Massachusetts students excel on the National Assessment of Educational Progress…the state ranked sixth in the world in math on the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (it comes out every four years). Public and private school students and schools in Massachusetts, measured with 63 countries and nine American states, scored in the company of Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

That is a solid appraisal of the short history. Unfortunately, this piece falls many problems main stream media reporting on this issue seems to fall victim.

While the article relies mostly on decent sources, most of them are policy wonks and spin doctors. Aside from the nice narrative opening, set in an East Cambridge eight grade math class, there is a decided lack of teachers included in the piece. However, a think tank is prominently quoted, because everyone needs “non-partisan, expert analysis.”

I am truly tired of this kind of lazy reporting on education. Why is there no Boston Public school teacher used as a source in this article? Really. It is The Boston Globe after all and the reporter couldn’t find a single Boston teacher to go on record. Aside from the opening teacher, Michelle Calioro, the only other individual that even gets close to a classroom or children even is Heather Bishop, a language and literacy chairperson, and she is in Natick, twenty-plus miles from the city. Twelve sources are quoted and only two will be directly impacted by the implementation of the Common Core. That is simply not good enough.

In fact, there are as many sources responsible for creating the Common Core as there are school personnel. The group responsible for managing CCSS development, Achieve president, Michael Cohen appears, as does a lead writer of the math standards, Jason Zimba. Neither have any experience in K-12 education, by the way.

Also, there are multiple department of education types and professors. Former Massachusetts commissioner David Driscoll and current commissioner Mitchell Chester are included. Then there is former commonwealth DoE associate and University of Arkansas professor Sandra Stotsky, Michigan State professor William Schmidt, representing the academy. Finally, an education analyst, a policy advisor and the think-tanker are all asked for comments. I am sorry, but I sick of reading what the Pioneer Institute, or any other think tank, has to say about anything, and cannot understand why anyone else does either.

The only thing genuinely saving this wanting array of sources is the fact that it included a mix of proponents and critics. Yet, it is getting to the point where mainstream media’s medley of misinformation is just difficult to stomach. I realize the Globe is property of The New York Times, which seems to strangely support the Common Core. Still, this article ultimately represents easy and cheap journalism. Dialing up the same usual suspects and a few other wonks, in an effort to get both sides of the story, simply isn’t good enough anymore, especially on a story that has been building for three years.

The public deserves better reporting. Educators deserve better. Ultimately, those that will be impacted most of all, the students, deserve better, not to mention their parents.


Image: iPad

posted via haaslearning.tumblr.com
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