Don’t Blame Common Core

Recent results from international testing programs (PISA) indicate that scores for American students have remained stagnant in comparison to other comparable nations where scores have risen. Media outlets have been quick to blame progressive pedagogies—common core—for the decline in American performance in core disciplines.

Don’t blame common core. If anything, common core mirrored the kind of instructional goals now being followed in countries that score well on PISA. I admit to having some issues with common core, but the substance of the reform called for teachers to invite students to participate in processes of inquiry, problem solving and sensemaking. Students, according to common core, must have opportunities to participate in authentic, conceptual problem solving and argumentation. So then, what went wrong.

First, and foremost, our teachers are not at the same educational and training levels of comparable industrialized nations—they lack deep background in their subject matter, which, is the foundation of common core and the curricula in nations doing well on PISA. This is not to blame teachers for low test scores. It is to admit the uncomfortable truth that the curriculum and expectations in American schools of education do not align with the kinds of pedagogy—e.g. common core) designed to do well on conceptually based content and procedures tested by PISA.

Secondly, nations doing well on PISA spend more time in school ( e.g. 240 days in Japan).

Thirdly, even when in school American students waste enormous amounts of time on non-academic activities—homecoming, prom, pep assemblies

Finally, our culture is deeply anti-intellectual and anti-school. American parents look at schooling as means to earn a credential, a piece of paper–the concept that the act of learning is a honored value–one that must be pursued at all cost–well, what our culture values is Friday Night Under the Lights, supporting our winning head football coach, who, also teaches one period of Algebra.

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