Did Common Core Win the War?

Politico scored a coup this week by declaring that the war is over, and Common Core won it. One can only assume that Kim Hefling's piece "How Common Core Quietly Won the War" bumped equally hard-hitting pieces such as "The Earth -- Actually Flat After All" or "The Presidential Wisdom of Harold Stassen."

Hefling's main point is that Common Core is now everywhere, so it won. But this would be tantamount to saying that Kleenex has cornered 100 percent of the facial tissue market because all citizens wipe their noses on something that they call "Kleenex."

Sure, there's something called Common Core almost everywhere in education. But which Common Core Ish thing would we like to talk about?

State standards? Many states have changed the name and little else, but many states have further fiddled with the everyone-forgets-their-copyrighted standards, so that none particularly match any more.

Testing standards? A variety of Common Core based Big Standardized Tests are out there, and -- for now -- every state has to have one. But what those tests cover does not in any case correspond fully with the Common Core standards as originally written (for extreme instance, speaking and listening standards are not and likely never will be tested). And in many, if not most, school districts, curriculum and instruction are driven by the test, not the standards.

Curriculum standards? Most districts have "aligned" their curricula to the Common Core -- but that process looks a lot like taking what you already do anyway and assigning various standards to it until your paperwork looks good.

Textbook standards? One of the biggest effects of Common Core was the huge windfall for textbook publishers as schools rushed to get textbook programs with "Common Core ready" stamped on them somewhere. But every publisher has their own idea about what the standards look like when interpreted on the textbook level -- and absolutely nobody is in position to check their work, leading many analysts to conclude that many textbooks are not particularly "Common Core" at all.

Classroom standards? The final editor of all these programs is the teacher, who retains (in most districts) the ability to say, "While the Common Core Textbook/Curriculum/Script says to teach it this way, I'm looking at these kids and my professional judgment says we're doing something else, instead."

Add to these the consultants, college ed profs and clueless politicians who all think they are talking about Common Core and you have a brand that has absolutely lost its identity. You remember the blind men touching the tail, leg and trunk of the elephant? Well, in Common Core land they're touching the leg of the elephant, a Victorian living room sofa and a plastic grocery bag filled with steamed cockroaches.

Hefling tries to skirt the issue by not really addressing what the success of Common Core was supposed to look like. She refers to CCSS as "the math and English standards designed to develop critical thinking" which is A) baloney and B) unnecessary. Show me the CCSS standards that require critical thinking, and then explain to me why anybody needed CCSS to promote critical thinking in the first place.

She also references the idea that Common Core allows teachers to share ideas, as if that was somehow impossible before. She includes a testimonial from a Florida principal who provides the six zillionth iteration of the "Before we had the Common Core, we didn't know how the hell to do our jobs" narrative.

If the picture of success was supposed to be that everyone in the public education system (not the private schools! never the private schools!) had to deal with something that had the words "Common Core" attached to it, then yes, CCSS has won.

But if, as was actually the case, the goal was to have identical standards pursued and measured in every public classroom in the country, with teachers working in virtual lockstep to pursue exactly the same goals-- then, no -- the Common Core lost. It failed. It was a sledgehammer that was supposed to beat open the brick wall of US schooling, and instead shattered into a million different bits.

And Hefling doesn't even talk about the other promise of the Core -- that all students would be college and career ready. We supposedly have several years' worth of Common Core grads out there now -- how are they doing? Are colleges reporting an uptick in well-prepared freshmen? Are businesses reporting a drop in their training needs? Hefling and her Core-adoring sources don't address that at all. Can you guess why?

Originally posted at Curmudgucation