Recently, the media have reported a mounting chorus against the U.S. Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Opponents of the CCSS state that the initiative is an intrusion of the Federal Government into local authority, that it’s really an attempt to impose a national curriculum, and that it simply costs too much to implement.
Personally, I find it hard to buy into many of these arguments because they are built on inaccuracies.
As all TESOL professionals understand, standards are not the same as curriculum. Moreover, while the U.S. Department of Education has provided support for them, the CCSS are not a mandate from the Federal Government. (In fact, the Department of Education is forbidden by law to develop a national curriculum, and several states have elected not to adopt the CCSS.) What prompted this state-driven initiative was the realization that all students deserve a coherent and rigorous set of expectations, that the status quo was a disjointed set of standards with the most egregious results affecting the students we dedicate ourselves to: English learners.
Are there limitations and challenges associated with the CCSS? Of course. Teachers have been an afterthought and their voices need to be part of the discussion in the implementation phase. Development tools need to be created. Students with limited English proficiency are still too often viewed as a homogeneous group with no differentiated needs, and judged within a deficit framework, with no regard for the cultural richness they bring to the classroom. Many questions remain about the assessments under development and the role they will play in accountability, policy, and teacher evaluation. Given the role and impact high-stakes assessments have already played in the United States, the anxiety is understandable, and so the implementation of the CCSS and the accompanying assessments should be executed cautiously and with all due diligence.
Yet, I believe that the CCSS, with all its imperfections, is the most promising policy for our English language students, who deserve the same high expectations as their peers. For too long, our students have been held to a different set of standards.
They deserve a fair chance.
They deserve our support.
The CCSS is their best chance and our best chance at fulfilling the promise of education, and that won’t happen for ELLs unless we as TESOL professionals are seated at the table.
I welcome your feedback and thoughts.