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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Will the Common Core Meet the Needs of Ferguson, Missouri?

Imagine an ed. reformer confronting me on the street and asking, "Hey, NYC Phoenix, if schools don't need the Common Core, then what do they need?  Aren't all students created equal?  Shouldn't they all have the same first-rate set of standards preparing them for college and career?" 

Here's my answer: "I don't share in your hubris.  I don't have the golden key that unlocks the door to every student's needs.  No one has that key.  Do you know why?   Because there isn't just one key.  There are so many different keys.  Equality doesn't mean standardizing standards.  It doesn't mean using one key.

"Instead of killing local control through the destruction of school boards and the concentration of power in hands that are often grabbing for money, why don't you ASK PEOPLE IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES WHAT THEY NEED AND WHAT THEY WANT?  And work from there.  If some say they want the Core, then far be it for me to deprive them of their democratic voice.  I know you''ll spend millions advertising your Core.  And, I know you want parents to demand it.  But so much of the demand that is so little is a creation of your own imagination.  The people who want it are the ones that don't have it.  And, if they or their children get it, they won't want it."  

I read a post by Diane Ravitch yesterday morning, "This was Michael Brown's High School."  It describes conditions of abysmal poverty that take me back to the study on the Appalachia that preceded the War on Poverty.  Is there anyone who reads that article and thinks for one moment that these people are crying out for the Core?  Is there anyone who thinks for one moment a higher set of standards engineered by an SAT-loving, out-of-touch elite will really meet these people's needs? 

I cannot believe the audacity of the reformers.  I cannot believe their lack of concern for democratic voices.  The people opposed to the Core run the full gamut of the economic, political and social spectrum.  And we're supposed to believe that the likes of Jenny Sedlis and her StudentsFirstNY has the single answer to society's problems.   She says, "Blaming high standards for producing poor academic performance is like claiming doctors produce illness."  But if a doctor recommends a fitness program far above the current capabilities of your heart or prescribes a medicine that causes you to go into cardiac arrest, then how's your doctor?  

Sedlis says, "anybody who claims that higher standards caused disappointing test scores is at best wrong and at worst disingenuous."  I would say, "anybody who claims that one set of higher standards will solve the crises in our society or meet the needs of all students is at best ignorant and at worst villainous."

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