Five Stars for the Common Core: How Would You Design a Review?

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We’re years into daily debate about the Common Core, and just this week, Commissioner Elia invited feedback on the Common Core Learning Standards through this survey, conducted by the New York State Department of Education. The purposes of the survey are clear:

This survey provides an opportunity for every New Yorker to go online, review each standard and comment on what is liked, not liked, or offer a suggestion for a change to a particular standard. Please note: Respondents do not need to comment on every standard. Please comment on as few or as many standards as desired.

This is not a referendum on the standards. Only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered. The objectives of this review are to:

1. increase awareness and understanding of New York’s current standards in ELA and math that were adopted in 2011; and

2. gather actionable feedback from all New Yorkers as part of the department’s regular review process of the academic standards with an eye toward continuous improvement.

Comments provided about specific standards will be evaluated and reviewed by teams of New York educators from all levels specializing in the specific content areas. Any changes recommended by these teams will be presented to the New York Board of Regents for its consideration. Any changes to the standards would not be implemented until the 2016-17 school year or later.

The following principles will guide this review:

  1. Focus on the standards: The review will focus on the substance of the actual standards themselves.
  2. Improve what already exists; don’t start over: The intent is to improve current standards based on public input from parents, educators, administrators, etc.

In order to provide meaningful feedback, reviewers are expected to read and deepen their understanding of the standards themselves, and it’s no surprise that some are revealing tremendous frustration over this reasonable expectation. Coming to know the standards is complex work, and yet, I’m uncertain how anyone could provide quality feedback about the Common Core–including criticism–without reading the standards and developing a clear understanding of what they suggest students must know and be able to do.

That said, I’m wondering: say we were to simplify things in a way that might appease the critics of this process. What would this effort look like? Would a simple five star review suffice? If so, how would we define exceptionally low quality standards–those that earn one star? What would five star standards achieve?

I’m wondering how your five star review might look different from one that I design.

How would mine look different from one designed by the teachers I serve or their administrators?

What do we expect of standards anyway?

My hunch is that our answers would be wildly varying, and that in itself is pretty revealing.

If you’re inclined, I hope you’ll share your thinking in the comments……

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