At the end of the academic year teachers and administrators ordinarily stop and take stock of what transpired during the past school year. It is one of those times when educators do a self-reflection and mull over what worked or didn’t work in their classrooms—where they ponder if academic goals were met and whether their students will leave their classrooms better than when they arrived in September.
Like any other educator, I did a review in my own mind of what were the pervasive points of discussion that preoccupied educators this past year. It was obvious to me, regardless of what school system you may be attached to, whether public or non-public schools, the Common Core was front and center for varying opinions and thoughts. What became very apparent to me was that the discussions that surfaced surrounding the Common Core were more polarizing debates on ideologies rather than an honest dialog of what were universally accepted concepts centered on how best we can serve our students.
The History of Educational Standards
In the mix of these discussions was the cacophony of voices from politicians, radio talk show hosts, and self proclaimed “experts” disseminating misinformation, misinterpretations and misconceptions about the Common Core. The standard of operation in addressing issues today is one of myopia; there is the propensity to look at an issue from only one perception and exclude any other thought that might be contrary to one’s own belief. This only leads to gridlock, stagnation, and intellectual suicide.
When tracing the history of education in America, there has always been a preoccupation with the establishment of unifying educational standards. In fact, it dates back as far as the 1840s and 50s with the Common School Movement, which addressed the expansion and unification of public education.
Here are some of the cornerstone tenets of the Common School Movement that were in the forefront back in the mid 19th century:
- The need for social cohesion –similarity in the quality of schooling
- The equality of educational opportunity—all children should have access to schools that offer education of similar, high quality
- The use of standardized or comparable achievement tests for promotion or college admissions.
It is amazing to see that some of the concerns that surfaced in the early part of our country’s educational history are still some of the same anxieties that we are contending with today. These concerns are in part central to the elements addressed within the Common Core educational standards.
Admittedly, the Common Core is not the silver bullet or the panacea, and truly no one is proposing that it is. However, it is a significant start to galvanize the education community to work together, not just for the sake of the standards, but for what the standards can do in serving all of our students and serving them well.
It’s Time to Act
Let’s have an honest and genuine dialog about the Common Core. Let’s get rid of the contentious vocabulary and the vitriol. Let’s fix what needs to be fixed, and let’s hold on those values that are rooted within the Common Core, which is committed to improving the quality of education. Let the discussions be one of openness, where compromise is not considered a weakness, but a dedicated effort to unite our efforts where we respect the differences, but never allow the goal of putting our students first to fall through the cracks.
Whatever the role we play in this discussion, parent, teacher, administrator or concerned citizen, let our thoughts be directed on the pursuit of excellence, a pursuit that is arduous and demanding, but one where our students become the beneficiaries. It is time to act!
Schoolwide Change Through Improved Teacher Instruction
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Presented by Dr. Ron Valenti and Jessica Bianculli, This two-part webinar will explore the principal’s role in providing the environment where student achievement is enhanced, then investigate how the teacher’s role is strengthened in providing sound and effective instruction, regardless of the standards that drive a school in its pursuit of excellence.