At the policy level, very little #edreform discourse really suggests that we change that. Of course, when we talk abut #edreform, by and large, we’re talking about doing things to schools, students, and teachers. We’re not talking about changing the way we run schools to be more democratic and participatory with them; we’re talking about how to sort students (college or career) and how to sort teachers (effective or not at teaching to tests). As a system, in everything we do, we lack nuance. We so misunderstand the lessons of business and social media – or we’re so eager to legitimize the further standardization (privatization?) of schools, students, and teachers – that we’re still looking for a system-wide fix rather than fixing the system to serve students-as-niches. There’s no other reason for a race than to declare a winner. There’s no failure grant from the fed.
So, why am I beginning to be optimistic about the Common Core Standards? To borrow a phrase from Parag Khanna’s brilliant TED Talk, I look forward to “the post-colonial entropy” of life after state standards.
I think that the Common Core Standards could be the squiggly lines that break through state borders and lead to reforms in authentic teaching, learning, and assessment.
I’m imagining the benefits of networked teachers finally being able to work on the same thing: how to teach democratically, authentically, and effectively through project-based learning. As No Child Left Behind gave us common language around the Achievement Gap, maybe the Common Core Standards will give us common language around improving classroom practice. If we no longer have to worry about how my standards differ from yours – how your lesson wouldn’t work in my classroom because of state requirements – then maybe we can work proactively to translate the Common Core Standards into direct experience with democracy, social learning, service, entrepreneurship, and invention.
We have a moral obligation to do good with these standards. They get rid of state standards as barriers to collaboration. Moreover, if President Obama’s ESEA reauthorization blueprint survives passage into law, we’re going to be given back a lot of flexibility at the state and local levels to “fix” what’s “wrong” with our schools.
The success or failure of the ESEA reauthorization in eliminating the Achievement Gap and graduating students prepared to thrive in our democracy rests on us teachers and our students according to how much we truly let them to own their learning. We can combine the core standards with the ESEA’s renewed freedoms to teach and learn to rekindle our students’ – and the public’s – faith in education and imagination of what’s possible at school.
We can be an un-union of networked professionals with no other agenda than the reformation of public education through individual and collective action online and in the classroom. We can talk the standards and act on best practices in authentic learning. We can deliver on all that said we couldn’t do under NCLB.
United by common standards, our relationships with one another and with students, and this historic opportunity to be again the teachers we want to be, we can carry in our pockets and practice in our classrooms a democracy of learning.
Just don’t mind the book lists.