As all new attempts at curriculum reform, the Common Core has generated its’ share of criticism. Looking back at Whole Language, New Math, Outcome Based Education and other initiatives, the well-intended reforms floundered on the shoals of public misunderstanding, poor implementation, over-implementation, and all the other risks of change. The major differentiation currently, of course, is the breadth of the Common Core mandate.
Much of the internal anxiety over Common Core is that many teachers do not have an instructional screen, a model at which they are proficient through which they may interpret, deconstruct, and organize the new curriculum. On the other hand, teachers who do have such a screen analyze the new expectations through that screen, organize it, are able to articulate the issues, and put the expected outcomes into teachable chunks.
New teacher’s understanding and use of pedagogy differs dramatically depending on which teacher preparation program they experienced in college. Their growth in the profession ranges from excellent to zero depending on the school district in which they work and the staff development models being, or not being, implemented.
Can we get this reform right?
Like successful businesses, schools and school districts need a core culture to provide the foundation and lens for the inevitable changes in curriculum.
There is, however, a more honest but sensitive issue to address, and that is a fundamental weakness in the industry – the lack of uniformly well-trained and well-resourced teachers. We should expect and require teachers to be armed with a basic understanding and use of fundamental pedagogy, instead of floundering with randomness. Their growth in the profession depends on the school district in which they work and the staff development models being implemented. The research indicates that most teacher’s “styles” are modeled after teachers they had in school, but with little or no understanding of the research which may indicate whether the style is effective or not.
Getting to the “core” of the Common Core requires district administrative decision-making regarding ongoing teacher training. Successful businesses have a core culture which is followed by the employees and which tells them “…this is the way we do things here.” How many schools have such an expectation in terms of teaching? Many schools have commonly expected procedures and practices in terms of rules, grade books, attendance, submitting purchase orders and so forth, but how many have common expectations of how the teacher is to present new information and/or skills to students in the classroom – presentations that are effective and efficient in terms of the research?