Thursday, December 22, 2011

Common Core Needs a New Learning Corps!

"There may not be any curriculum that every learner needs to know, but there surely are many curriculums that most need learners to know."

There's lots of talk out there in Web 2+ land these days about learning standards, standardized testing, common core curriculums, even having teachers read scripts to students to assure that all learners are hearing the same thing. Madness abounds! Who even knows when the kids are listening to anything the teacher says.

A teacher's curriculum delivery plate is far too full these days, not just with standards, but with all the other cultural, social, political, and local necessities that constitute what children are expected to know. Well, at least expect to be tested on. For more on this topic, read Jamie Vollmer' List:

It's my intent in this blog to tilt a different windmill. Pancho, hand me my Quixotian lance. What do our students really need to know? The answers, whatever they are, must be doable.

One of the recently touted solutions is Common Core standards. It makes sense, really. At some acceptable level of competency, kids need to know how read, write, compute. The devil is in the details of when and how much. Not all will pass 5th grade tests in 5th grade.

I'll digress on this last observation, because the enemy of standards is us. We have a plethora of disconnected school districts. We group our learners by how old they are, not by what they know and need to know. For more on this topic read "Animal School" - fable with a moral that's been around for over 50 years:

Why group them at all? Why not deliver the Common Core standards to each learner, one at a time. We could make lessons available, with the requisite testing, online 24/7 and even include real, live tutorial and mentor help for those who need it. Hey, it's already happening. But, let's have all states adopt the same definition of standards: every learner needs to know these skills and understandings before diploma time. Maybe we could even have a Confederation of States Commission to oversee it and let the states get on with other business.

Classrooms could then become a gathering-place of learners with like interests and comparable readiness to learn the non-core curriculum du jour or the semester....watercolor art, choral music, journaling, geocaching, poem-making, etc. Why, they might even choose something new to learn that would motivate a more aggressive mastery of their Common Core standards. Students could even form learning teams and help one another, teachers assisting as needed. And our teachers wouldn't have to read from teleprompters either.

With 16,000 school districts and an equal number of school boards, alignment for effectively delivering common standards is nearly an impossible task. Let's let the new technologies and Web 2.0+ and a Common Core Commission of States help deliver what our current classrooms can't. Then let's create New Classrooms to deliver what Common Core can't: Competencies in Action.

I know, I know! My windmill is a dream. And so is my tilting. But dreams can happen, one newly revised classroom at a time, a place where learners are ready, willing, and able to show us that they know. Even Horace Mann might approve.