Over at ASCDedge (a professional networking community managed by, of course, ASCD), Steven Weber reflects on recent Education Week coverage on the topic of Common Core State Standards and how it relates to curriculum. One of the key questions Weber asks those in “the community” is “Do you think that the Common Core State Standards are curriculum or do you believe there is a distinct difference between standards and curriculum?”
When I was out at ASCD last week, I heard some very similar concerns from educators across the country. Lots of teachers freaked out by CCSSI because they believe it is the “new curriculum” to go with the new world order likely coming through the reauthorization of ESEA.
If one ventures over to the CCSSI website
, it is nearly impossible to even find the word “curriculum.” In describing what CCSSI is, the good folks at National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are pretty darned clear about what common standards are, and curriculum ain’t it. Just take a look at the description:
The standards are informed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.
These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:
- Are aligned with college and work expectations;
- Are clear, understandable and consistent;
- Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
- Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
- Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
- Are evidence-based.
Lots on skill. Lots on standards. Nothing about curriculum. The closest we have is they are built upon current state standards, which in theory tie to current state curriculum. But is there anyone who believes that the hodgepodge of current state standards is very definition of a model curriculum?
So why the confusion and the concern? First and foremost, it is driven by a lack of information. CCSSI was released nearly a year ago, and virtually every state in the union has signed onto the movement. But beyond those policymakers who put their states into the CCSSI camp and those consultants who wrote Race to the Top applications pledging to follow the Common Standards, few actually know what this means. We’ve signed on to CCSSI, the thought process goes, so now what?
In the absence of information, we make it up. We know CCSSI isn’t assessment and tests, because we have federally funded tests aligned with CCSSI currently under development. But the feds don’t develop curriculum. So we have a choice. Vendors claiming their products are the CCSSI curriculum or the notion that CCSSI is the curriculum itself. And while many vendors may be quick to claim CCSSI alignment, no one has yet been bold enough to claim they are the embodiment of the curriculum itself. The only remaining choice, then, is that the standards must be the curriculum. After all, what value is the alignment of product if it isn’t aligned to both the standard and the curriculum?
We all know that moving the concept of common core state standards into practice is going to take time. We have standards. We are developing tests. It is now likely going to take us a few years to develop a curriculum (particularly with the 15% add ons most states will take advantage of) and then create the professional developments and supports to go with it. Yet here we stand, expecting all of this to take hold in a matter of months, rather than the years it typically takes the education community to get up to speed.
Before we rush to accept national standards as a new curriculum, it seems we need to ask ourselves one important question. Do national standards mean a national curriculum, or is curriculum best left to localities and teachers to determine? Seems CCSSI is all about providing us one universal yardstick, but it should be left up to the user to determine how to hit a given mark.