The Kansas House just voted to reject a bill that would repeal the Common Core curriculum in Kansas. I personally don’t have a beef with Common Core as a set of academic standards. However, I have problems with how it seems to promote a culture of never-ending standardized testing and teaching to the test. I have big problems with how it became mandatory and the ensuing knee-jerk reaction to adopt so-called “Common Core Aligned” curricula and textbooks; materials often published by the same companies that create and sell the standardized tests that ensure compliance with Common Core in the first place. Saying “Common Core aligned” on the cover doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality when it comes to teaching materials.
I never thought I would celebrate the failure of a bill to repeal mandatory use of Common Core curriculum in Kansas, but I am. The reason? The new bill would mandate the non-use of Common Core. It would have thrown the baby out with the bath water. (Go here to read more about the controversial bill and the use of Common Core in Kansas.)
With the passage of the bill that was ultimately defeated, everything Common Core adopted by our schools would have been outlawed and we would have had to start over from scratch with brand new teaching materials. Fortunately for now, a bad bill was rejected. But our schools have always been political footballs, so we can expect that this fight is not over yet.
A more proper response by the legislature would be to write a law that explicitly permits local school districts to decide locally whether or not to use Common Core. I don’t like how using or not using Common Core gets rammed down our throats. Let professional educators make some decisions on how to use or not use this tool.
But we don’t seem to have a level of respect anymore to realize that Kansas kids living in rural areas may have completely different needs and interests than kids in Kansas’ urban areas do. Instead, we have to standardize, opting for a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone needs to be the same. I think it would be better at the state level to make a recommendation of using Common Core, if that is what is desired, and even assess for it on state assessments if necessary, but ultimately leave it to local school districts and professional educators to decide how best to adopt and implement the standards.