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You say Tomato, I say Tomahto … it’s [almost] 2015, why are we still talking about this?

We all like to think we’re open-minded; that we arrived at a reasonable, logical and right conclusion after careful consideration of the facts, perspectives, and various opinions. Sometimes we get the benefit of cardiac assessment (“it just feels right”) or a gut response to an issue. We weigh the evidence, reach a conclusion, and can rest comfortably in our superiority over those who haven’t reached the clearly obvious conclusions we have. Ok… so that last bit may or may not be true, depending on your approach to critical thinking and awareness of cognitive biases.

Here’s an interesting experiment. Below are two Kindergarten standards. One is from the Common Core Learning Standards (NYS’s version of the CCSS) and one is from the so-called “Lost Standards” (the version NYS was working on when Common Core came along).

Standards A
Standards B
Ask and answer questions in order to:
• seek help,
• get information,
• or clarify something that is not understood.
• Ask and answer questions about classroom activities
• Request help when needed
• Know when and how to ask permission

My bias is that standards are the least important part of ensuring a quality public education for all students. I’d co-sign this post by Kathleen Porter-Magee on standards and curriculum if it were a petition. So when I make the claim: The text on both sides of the table are basically saying the same thing, it’s informed by my bias and hunch that difference between any two set of standards isn’t really all that big. In my opinion, the biggest change from the old NYS ELA standards and the CCLS (besides the six shifts) was the introduction of coding, shared language between grade levels, and the explicit inclusion of culture and choice in the language of the standards.

Someone with a different bias, perhaps that the Common Core are “developmentally inappropriate” will likely see the text in the two columns as different. The would likely make the counterclaim: one is more “appropriate” than the other. 

All of that said, here’s my question: Does it matter? It’s 2015. How will the problems created by the Common Core be fixed by dropping them and going back to standards that NYS walked away from in 2009?

This isn’t about being right or being wrong about Common Core or which is better. This post is about humbleness and hubris. I’ve been writing this for a while now. While walking through airports, driving home from programs, falling asleep at night, in-between designing programs, and reading assessment research and I’m still struggling to find the right words. Usually, not always, I found myself mentally composing this post after scrolling through Twitter and watching the absolute confidence that a large number of educators speak about a particular issue. Mostly white male educators. Mostly about Common Core. I thought perhaps it was a function of 140 but the language of their blogs is often the same. Just for fun, I’ve “pushed back” (which I’ve been told is “trollish” and a “bad habit”) and in most instances, I get a response that one might classify as doubling-down. I’ve reflected on why I feel compelled to comment and poke. It’s partially because I’m fascinated by how we engage via Social Media. It’s partially because I advocate for process assessments (asking students about HOW they think) and logical discourse. It’s partially because I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed by hubris. I’m annoyed by the number of white male educators who write and post their thoughts on issues, rather than boosting the voices of women and men of color who have been writing about the given issue for months, even years. Maybe I’m a little jealous of the sheer hubris that some exhibit as they write and post about an issue, wrapped in a toasty blanket of confidence that they are absolutely, incontrovertibly right.

Mostly though, mostly it’s because I’m angry. I’m angry that at the end of 2014, following months in which Black Americans had to say – aloud – “my life matters”, people are still having conversations that feel like they should have been resolved in 2010. I’m angry at the data below.

I’m angry that someone claimed (with a seemingly straight face) that replacing one set of standards that are basically the same as another set of standards will reduce misbehavior among Black preschoolers and therefore, reduce the suspension rate. I’m angry that a number larger than 1 of middle-aged, white men wrote long-form essays on the impact of Common Core – without citing or even referring to the lived experiences of classroom teachers or current college students. I’m angry that many of those who are anti-test (seriously folks, take Jose Vilson’s advice and advocate for the “Whole Child”) aren’t offering alternatives to annual testing other than “Opt Out.” It’s 2014, not 2009. How about we move on from the standards and onto pedagogy, quality curriculum, equity, and cultural literacy?

How powerful would it be if instead of continuing the same conversations in 2015 that have been going on since 2009, we start or join new ones? The ones about race and culture and whose voices we trust and the role of public education and the tension between the learner and schooling? How about instead of tweeting “this is the truth”, we ask “what makes you think that’s the truth?” What if we asked more than told? Questioned more than pontificated? Reflected more than bumper sticker-ed? But eh… whadda I know? I’m just a troll.

Edit: I wrote this is December 2014. I was going to remove the above few paragraphs as they’re repeating what has been said much more clearly and concisely by other authors such as #educolor members and equity researchers. I elected to keep them in an effort to be an honest author. Now that Cuomo has announced his panel, my frustration has flared up again. Instead of talking about the problems and flaws of APPR, we’re going to be playing a game of wordsmithing to create “NYS Standards” that basically say the same thing as the CCSS but are juuuust different enough to require new curriculum and assessment design. I for one, am fairly confident, that’s not the most effective use of our time, not the thing that should be the top of our “to do” list.

Standard