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.


The people involved with Clickable said...

Thanks for taking the time. I like when someone else sees the same thing I do. Makes sense for another windmill tilter like me.

I think were we differ is that I think I see a pattern of evidence that tells me finally we are on the right side of history.

Common Core seen as Open standards undermines the power of school boards and state department of education as well as seriously threatening the monopoly on content held by the big publishing houses.

It also seriously threatens present practice especially in low income dysfunctional schools.

Everyone would agree with "At some acceptable level of competency, kids need to know how read, write, compute."

And yet they don't. Even many who get into "college" only to sit in remedial courses because they cannot read, write or compute at an acceptable level.

My strong hunch is that the mobile phone revolution of the last few years is the final trigger. I have a much longer story. Please feel free to ask if you want to hear it.

Michael Josefowicz

Dr. Tom said...

Those are good points, Mike.

I think one big reason so many kids can't read, write compute is that so many more stay in school these days, but attend sparingly, and are not motivated greatly to learn these skills. Worse, since we organize them into grades by by age instead of needs, it's extremely difficult to resolve their disabilities.

I would like to hear more from you on this issue. You can email me at

Cheers for the holidays!