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Toward a More Perfect Union?

This week’s question for the cooperative catalyst group is: What role do common core standards play in realizing, actualizing, and implementing democratic education? As I thought about how I would go about answering this, I realized I couldn’t think this small. . .yet.  And, as I say that, I realize that question really  is a HUGE question–so why am I calling it small?

In the last year, at least four different entities have come out with something that COULD have amazing repercussions for the education world.

1. The United States Department of Education presented a new  National Educational Technology Plan.  Will Richardson summarized some of the points here and it sounds quite good, according to the points he pickd out to quote in his blog.

  • “Personalized learning
  • Learning that is “lifelong and life-wide and available on demand.”
  • A device and ubiquitous access for every student and teacher.
  • Professional development that focuses on “connected teaching” in “online learning communities”
  • Professional learning that is “collaborative, coherent, and continuous.”
  • Learning that is “always on”
  • Learning that is no longer “one size fits all.”
  • Student work on the cloud
  • Student managed electronic learning portfolios
  • Students as “networked learners”
  • Broadband everywhere
  • Open educational resources
  • Creative Commons licenses
  • Changes to CIPA and FERPA to open up access
  • Rethinking the “basic assumptions” of schooling”

A 60 day comment period for this draft is open for anyone to support, oppose, or make suggestions here.

2. A proposed draft of Common Core Standards for nearly  all states was released from the Council of Chief State School Officers.  The NGA Center and CCSSO encourage those interested in the standards to provide further feedback by Friday, April 2, 2010, at  Lynne Munson blogged about some of the characteristics of them here.

3.  “The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.” (from their ‘about’ page.) NAEP currently reports out on student performance at the state and national level, and is often called the nation’s report card. Last summer they announced a 2012 assessment on technological literacy assessing three distinct definitions of technology. Part of the test will be career and technical education-like, part will be NET-S like and part will be STEM-like. A draft is available, but I couldn’t find it on their web page. The goal, though, is to make the assessment more connected to real-life technology skills.  UPDATE: It’s now the 2014 Technology and Engineering Literacy Assessment –

4. The New York Times reported that Obama Calls for Sweeping Overhaul in Education Law.  This document cites wanting to look at the growth of students–which, hopefully, would finally address challenging bright/gifted students appropriately. The NYTimes says, “The administration instead wants to measure each student’s academic growth, regardless of the performance level at which they start.”

So, knowing that these four “things” are out there, do we know whether the people creating them are talking to one another? (I bet we all can make a good guess as to the answer to that question.) Who, then, will do the meaning-making between these four initiatives, and connect them to one another? Who will find the commonalities and share them among the four entities?  Who will make looking at and using these initiatives reasonable in a school system?

I know of at least one school system where someone took the NAEP sample questions to the “powers that be” and attempted to start a conversation about them last fall.  The response given was that, “NAEP doesn’t report out on schools, so we don’t have to pay attention to that. We have enough on our plate.” It didn’t matter that they were good examples of what we should be looking at in the realm of technological literacy.  It didn’t matter that looking at them would cause conversations where people could conceivably grow in their understanding of reasonable and deep uses of technology. The “powers that be” have enough on their plates.

Do we allow our department chairs, our central staff leaders, our executive directors, our CIOs, our Superintendents, our School Boards, our principals and whatever else we call our central decision makers to continue to be isolated and isolationists, maintaining their silos in their work? Or do we PUSH them to collaborate, to think globally, to open their routine-based thinking to other ways of knowing and doing?

These four documents seem to have certain premises in common.

One idea behind common standards is that they will reduce variance across states in how college and work force readiness are defined.  A question remains as to how they will be interpreted–are they the ceiling or the floor?  Will they be standards or will they be standardized?   To what extent will the standards be flexible and modifiable? And, if they are flexible and modifiable, who does the fleshing out–at what level– national, state or local level?  OR will the textbook companies once again lead our implementations by their interpretations of the standards? And, where, in this college and workforce readiness national plan, can kids drive their own path?

If we have national standards, are national assessments next? If so, what happens to NAEP?  Does it then become a dipstick for the common national standards?

Again, I say, the intents in these documents are similar.

Are we going to seek resonance or discord between them? Are we, as educators, going to tear them apart and find the dissonance within, or are we going to look for the similarities, the parts and pieces that feed the skills we know our students of today need to survive–no, to THRIVE in their future? Are we going to push OUR “powers that be” to look at them, to USE them, to embrace them and build upon them to  innovate our schools to be the places and spaces we know they should be for ALL learners??

The standards themselves play NO role in realizing, actualizing, and implementing democratic education.  It’s what the adults do with them that does.

So what will YOU do with these four initiatives to set aside the status quo in favor of a more perfect union?


About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


One thought on “Toward a More Perfect Union?

  1. Paula, you do a great job here paiting the landscape of emergent educational policy. This is a tremendously helpful read in pulling together the big picture of top-down #edreform.

    I agree with your conclusion: what we do with the standards matters more than they standards do. They cannot, in and of themselves, realize, actualize or implement democracy. We (including our students) can.

    How do we include the central decisions makers in our thinking even as we ask them to include us in theirs? How do we include students in our thinking and ask them to include us in theirs?

    Best regards,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 15, 2010, 8:06 pm

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