Risks and Issues of the Common Core

TTW2MBAjumpingOverBooksIn past issues of the Project Post-Gazette’s Risk Line we have discussed risks and issues concerning project managers, business analysts, compliance and ethics professionals, and senior leadership. This month’s Project Post-Gazette is focusing on education. In this month’s PPG’s Risk Mini, we will talk about the implementation of the Common Core Standards into our children’s schools and look at risks and issues in the implementation of this controversial initiative.

The Common Core Standards initiative, or the term most commonly use, Common Core, is an educational endeavor that sets educational standards for students from grades kindergarten through the 12th grade. The originating concern that sparked this initiative was the fact that the students’ performance of the National Assessment of Educational Progress was so vastly different from state to state.

One goal of this initiative was to ensure that our high school graduates in America receive an education that prepares them to enter colleges or enter the workforce better prepared. The main goal of the Common Core is to standardize English language arts and mathematics at each grade to raise the educational standard among American children.

Common Core originated in 2009 when a group of educators and stakeholders with experience in curriculum design, assessment and education of all levels got together at the National Governors Association Center (NGA) for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). One main focus behind the Common Core was the desire to create a single set of standards and a common grading criteria.

The common core standards was not implemented nor voted upon by the federal government, congress or the Department of Education as many may have thought. The funding came from the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. The common core standards is also not a part of the “No Child Left Behind” initiative. States across the country collaborated with teachers, researchers, and experts in education to design and develop these common core standards. The standards were released to the public in September 2009 and again in March 2010 for public comment. At that point there were about 10,000 comments which were incorporated into a final set of standards that were issued in June 2010.

Not all states have bought into the common core standards. The current administration embraced the standards and in fact the administration gave grants ranging from USD$ 4 million to 30 million to local education agencies (LEA) in states that have adopted the Common Core.

From research it appears that 45 states and 4 territories have formally adopted the Common Core Standards, but there has been a lot of opposition to this new standard. The concerns that were the greatest were opposition to the Common Core Standard of the one-size-fits-all curriculum and standardized testing. Many were concerned that schools would teach to the curriculum. There has even been one state, Alabama, where the school board voted to revoke their agreement to the common core standards on November 14, 2013. Other states such as Louisiana have chosen to delay the common core accountability measures for several years and other states are chosen to delay or abandon the testing. So it appears there is not a united front behind the common core standards.

The common core standards process is state-led but has support from the founding agencies. The states that have adapted the common core state standards are currently working together to develop common assessments that will be in alignment to the standards and will replace their existing state assessments.

So what are the risks and issues that are said to be found with the Common Core Standard? Opponents to the Common Core Standards state the following risk potentials and current issues:

  • Students are being assessed prior to the beginning of curriculum instruction
  • State loses control of what is taught and have to build lesson plans to the Common Core
  • Teachers tend to “teach to the test” and not follow traditional lessons plans previously taught
  • Teachers feel teaching to the tests reduces critical thinking and moral reasoning which was previously taught
  • Heavy “required curriculum” reduces other subjects such as art, music, foreign language and social studies to allow heavy concentration in math and language arts.
  • Teachers feel more time is given to teaching how to take tests due to the performance pressure
  • Standards were written by academics and assessment experts and teacher were brought in to assess the standards after they were written
  • Cost: many states signed up without doing a cost analysis and are now finding out the high total costs

o   States will spend up to an estimated USD$10 billion up front,

o   Yearly costs are USD$ 800 million per year for the first seven years that the controversial program is up and running. Much of the cost is on new, Common Core-aligned textbooks and curriculum, but the added expenses also include teacher training, technology upgrades, testing and assessment.

Anyone that has taken the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam knows how we studied the material to pass the exam. I remember being in my boot camp to hear over and over again, memorize this “for the exam.” Do I run projects like the processes I memorized for the exam, NO! The exam is a data base of questions that produce a standard test for each person that sits for the exam. There are courses to assist you with how to take the exam and figure out tricky questions. You can find hundreds of courses to teach the material that is supposed to be on the exam in order to ensure the entire cadre of individuals (future PMP) taking the exam are prepared for the databank of questions. If you have memorized the materials enough to pass the exam, and you can take tests, you can pass the exam and receive your certification. In other words, it really does not matter if the person taking the exam has the skills to be a PMP, it just matters that they could pass the exam.

The Common Core Standards initiatives does not claim to be a curriculum, but a set of shared goals and expectations of what knowledge and skills will help American students succeed in their next step in life, college or the workforce. From all the research I did on the Common Core Standards, they were much like the PMP exam I took to become a certified project manager. Teachers teach the material that is supposed to be on the exams in order to ensure the entire group of individuals taking the exam (students K – 12) are able to pass the exam.

If the day is so full of teaching material to pass standardized tests, there is a critical piece that seems to be missing — a piece that was already there before Common Core: the teaching of skills and attributes such as creativeness, leadership, self-directedness, and moral integrity to balance our children out to solid United States citizens. As with all PPG articles and columns, we welcome your comments and counter-points. They can be sent to our comments mailbox using this link.

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