With the end of No Child Left Behind, states will have the flexibility to continue with the controversial Common Core State Standards or not. This is Connecticut’s opportunity to put a good education in place for our students by rejecting the Common Core.
However, Alan Taylor, the Chair of the Connecticut State Board of Education, recently said, “I don’t foresee that happening. I happen to think that the Common Core is far better than anything we had done before.”
The Common Core Standards “far better than anything we had done before?” Hardly.
In fact, the claim has been the opposite. When the Common Core was adopted by Connecticut in 2010, the Connecticut State Department of Education claimed that the existing Connecticut State Standards were 80 percent the same as the Common Core Standards in English language arts and 92 percent the same in mathematics.
Connecticut students have done really well in the years when their education was based on our Connecticut State Standards rather than on the Common Core. On the international PISA test, Connecticut’s 15-year-olds scored higher than students in 63 nations. Also, from 1992 until 2014, Connecticut, along with Massachusetts and New Jersey, had the highest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in the country.
Somebodies had been doing something right under our own Connecticut State Standards.
It’s time to build on that “something right” and rid ourselves of the Common Core. The figure of a 20 percent difference between the Connecticut State Standards in English Language Arts and the Common Core English Language Arts doesn’t tell the whole story. There is the 20 percent difference in topics covered, but, even more importantly, the whole approach of the Common Core contradicts the philosophically and academically-sound Connecticut State Standards approach and dictates outdated pedagogy for teachers and poor learning experiences for students.
It is time to get rid of the Common Core and return to what we already had in Connecticut.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of the Common Core early childhood approach to learning that 500 of the country’s most prominent early childhood professionals say harms young children due to the Common Core emphasis on didactic instruction and reduction in active learning through play and inquiry. Those experts say that we must return to developmentally appropriate active learning, which encourages the initiative, curiosity, and imagination of our youngest students and helps them to be successful learners.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of the limitations that the Common Core puts on the amount of literature students read. We must return to students reading full books in place of the Common Core recommended practice of reading selected chapters of books. We must once again give students opportunities to fall in love with reading.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of the Common Core practice of treating literary texts as informational texts in which the reader’s task is to figure out what the author intended to say, based on word choice and sentence structure, rather than to explore a range of interpretive possibilities.
We must return to the Connecticut State Standards, which divided texts into informational texts and literary texts and taught students how to read and respond to each kind of text and to think in the markedly different ways that reading each kind of text offers.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of the Common Core approach to the teaching of writing, which was best summed up in the words of the “architect of the Common Core,” David Coleman, when he said that with the Common Core, writing is taught so that “students know that no one gives a **** what they think and feel.”
We must return to the approach of teaching writing in which students are taught to write by gaining ownership of their ideas and their expression of those ideas.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of the Common Core’s prohibition of students using the personal voice when arguing a position in essays. We must return to the classroom practice of students exploring a wide range of ideas and questions in class so that each student forms his or her individual thinking and then teach students to express that thinking in both personal and impersonal voices.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of the Common Core way of teaching writing in which students revise their writing only “as needed.” We must return to teaching students the process of writing in which revision is always assigned because it is through revising their writing that students develop the quality of their thinking and learn the art and craft of written expression.
By getting rid of the Common Core, we will get rid of teaching students the answers for the standardized tests aligned with the Common Core and, instead, teach students to form their own questions and explore those questions wherever those explorations take them because questioning is the essential skill for the information-laden 21st century.
Connecticut is in great shape to begin the Post No Child Left Behind Era. Many other states have the choice of staying with the inadequate Common Core Standards or spending large sums of money to create their own standards because the standards they had prior to Common Core were inferior. Not so in Connecticut.
We are ready to go.
Post NCLB: Here we come.
The steps to beginning the Post NCLB Era in Connecticut are:
- Form a committee of educators to review the Connecticut State Standards, revising and adding on if necessary, and republish the Connecticut State Standards.
- Form a committee of educators to make the decisions about the forms of yearly assessments required by the federal government, reviewing Connecticut standardized test formats, the CMT and CAPT, and including the designing of new performance assessments.
Ann Policelli Cronin is a consultant in English education for school districts and university schools of education. She has taught middle and high school English, was a district-level administrator for English, taught university courses in English education, and was assistant director of the Connecticut Writing Project. She was Connecticut Outstanding English Teacher of the Year and has received national awards for middle and high school curricula she designed and implemented.