A Common Core Branding Problem or Implementation Problem?

With current actions having the governor of Louisiana filing suit against the Federal government over the Common Core State Standards and poll after poll showing new data on public perceptions regarding the standards themselves, the name Common Core, and just about everything else related to CCSS, it is no wonder that we aren’t quite sure what to make of it.

It is only going to get louder, as we get closer to the November elections, as we see candidate campaigning against (and a few for, I suppose) Common Core. Just ask the state superintendent in Arizona about the impact of the CCSS issue.

In today’s Waterbury RepublicanAmerican, Bruno Matarazzo has an interesting piece on how the topic is playing out in a true-blue state like Connecticut, a state that, back in the 1990s, was once a beacon for high educational standards. There, the issue is playing out through an Independent candidate for governor and growing concerns about the linkages between the standards and how new assessments will be used in high-stakes ways, such as teacher eval.

As Connecticut is a former stomping ground for dear ol’ Eduflack, I offered a little perspective to Matarazzo for his piece. Important for Connecticut, but also relevant for dozens of other states grappling with Common Core implementation issues. As Matarazzo writes:

PATRICK RICCARDS, THE FORMER DIRECTOR of Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now and current director of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, said Common Core has a branding problem; the standards themselves are not bad. He said supporters of Common Core have done a poor job of demonstrating why a common set of education standards across the country is needed.

Riccards said supporters also forget the emotional impact the topic of education can have on an entire community, from parents to the town gadfly. People don’t want to be made to feel the way they were educated as children was wrong, he said.

“You don’t win that fight with facts and figures, you win that by winning hearts,” Riccards said.

The problem with the state’s rollout is that it wanted to accomplish too much in too little time. Even before Common Core was implemented, a new computerized assessment pilot program was launched and a new teacher evaluation format was introduced.

Riccards said the gold standard in Common Core implementation was Kentucky, which rolled it out over four years and waited until it was complete to begin working on its own assessment test that was tied to the new standards.

Rebranding Common Core and holding town hall meetings to inform the community about the standards won’t help quell the fears of people concerned about the standards, Riccards said. What Connecticut needs to do, he suggested, is focus solely on Common Core implementation and make it sure it’s done right because the state only has one chance.

“If Connecticut screws this up, there’s no going back and doing it over,” Riccards said.

There are no do-overs when it comes to Common Core implementation. In an era of instant gratification, we need to really put the time in with regard to instruction, professional development, curricular materials, and the like before we worry about how the test scores are going to be applied.


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