Friday, September 6, 2013

An Oklahoma Teacher Speaks Out About Common Core

I received this treatise on Common Core from an Oklahoma teacher with whom I've communicated for several years now.  Of course, I will not release this teachers' name and I have also been asked not to mention in which part of the state this teacher is located.  Why?  Because, as with so many other teachers in Oklahoma (and across the country) this teacher is afraid of repercussions for their job for speaking out against Common Core.

I have edited the form only slightly as this was sent to me in an unfinished kind of stream-of-conscientiousness form.  Here are the thoughts of this OKLAHOMA teacher.

The coming internal conflict among Education Administrators and Common Core Supporters. 

1)  There is a shortage of Teachers.  

2)  Alternatively Certified Teachers.

Due to the shortage of traditionally trained Teachers, combined with the weak economy, School Administrators are hiring more alternatively certified Teachers that are knowledgeable and successful in their field of study, even though they might not be fully aware of pedagogical methods and concerns. Those School Administrators are bringing them into the existing organizational structure of the Education System and burdening them with the same mandates and restrictions that seem to be part of the cause of failure of the system itself.   

Like teachers educated in the field of education, alternatively certified Teachers are also knowledgeable and accomplished in their fields and industry. They have college degrees in their respective fields. A Biochemist has a degree in Biological Chemistry;  A Business leader has a degree in Business Management;  An Author might have a degree in English Literature or Journalism (or the field in which they write). You get the point.  It is commonly explained as alternatively certified Teachers know WHAT to teach, whereas, traditionally trained Teachers know HOW to teach.  

3) Common Core pushes uniformity among Teachers and students.  

It strives to funnel all components of education, from teachers to curriculum to classroom management to students themselves, through it’s programmed system of policy and procedures so that all Teachers react alike and teach alike, regardless of what subject they teach.  Common Core Standards proponents believe that with these policies and procedures in place, all students will follow them with minimal variance, resulting in all students learning the same things at the same time regardless of their individual abilities, interests, and home life support.  

However, the restrictions that Common Core Standards enforce may very well frustrate the supply of alternatively certified Teachers and continue the shortage of Teachers in the classroom.  These Common Core Standards ( i.e.-policy and procedures) come from Washington DC, so, it also ignores variation among School districts across the USA.   

Let’s face reality:  School districts are supported by it’s tax base.  Nice houses owned by the people who live in them with lots of retail stores that make and sell goods provide sales taxes = more income for local schools.  Conversely, rental homes in low income areas with minimal retail sales tax revenue = less money for local schools.  This also applies to rural communities. Common Core policy and procedures don’t care.  

Uniformity is the desired result. 

In the old days, the desired result was quality education for students.  

But not any more.  

One of the most certain ways an organization can strangle itself and minimize its growth and quality output is when that organization designs policy and procedures and then applies them to an existing unstable organizational structure in order to better control human efforts and behavior.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, recognized worldwide for the successful management concept which he developed, focuses on the overall system of the organization and how it supports the individual workers, or components.  In Deming’s management philosophy, once the appropriate system is in place the desired results will flow more naturally out of that system. 

The difference?  Common Core is a redesign and implementation of policy and procedures applied to an existing education system, which, according to most analysis is broken.  Dr. Deming's management concept focuses on a continual evaluation of the overall system, and redesigning the broken existing system if necessary, so as to attain a higher level of quality in its output.   

Common Core Standards in Education is the belief that if you have plenty of policy and procedures in place in the schoolhouse (from Board members to Custodians) then you will always get the same results, which is true. Uniformity through conformity, yes.  Quality, no.