Friday, May 29, 2015

What has Common Core Cost Us?

I went into an IEP meeting yesterday, helping out a friend, knowing that Gov. Christie was going to be making some announcement related to education. A couple of hours later, when I got out of that meeting, friends had left messages, texts, and Facebook posts about the announcement. What is true? Should we be popping open bottles of Champagne? Tossing confetti? Holding a parade?

I felt like a wet blanket. The governor's press release had some interesting language, which I'll get to in a minute, but most important is his refusal (pun intended) to get rid of the PARCC exam. Why is that important? Because PARCC was designed (and I use that word loosely) to measure Common Core State Standards. If the governor is getting rid of Common Core, then why on earth would you bother to keep its test? The answer, besides the money, is that we can expect whatever New Jersey's new standards are, they will look a lot like Common Core. Take a look at Indiana, a state that dumped Common Core early in the game and replaced it with what is jokingly referred to "Common Core Lite." If Christie wants new standards written and in place by the end of the year (hard to write that with a straight face - standards take years to develop) then I fully expect NJ Lite Core Standards.

Christie took the usual swipe at the federal government, our need to get away from federal control of our schools, the need for teachers to be involved in the coming changes to New Jersey education (read Jersey Jazzman's thoughts on that), how no New Jersey teachers were involved in the writing of the Common Core State Standards - ignoring that only ONE k-12 teacher sat on a review committee - no special education, no early childhood education specialists at all. The entire statement is disingenuous at best. New Jersey accepted Common Core State Standards before the ink was dry. They couldn't wait to trade our kids' education for a waiver from No Child Left Behind.

He also referred to a commission for creating new standards, which I fully expect to be comprised of the usual suspects. The ones that allegedly represent teachers and parents. The ones who have been the biggest cheerleaders for Common Core and PARCC. Selling it like their life depended on it. The New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, New Jersey Parent and Teacher Association, and so on.

What Gov. Christie did NOT mention was the costs. What exactly have the costs been of implementing all new curriculum aligned to Common Core? The textbooks, the workbooks, the licensing for online materials, the teacher professional development, the infrastructure to support online learning and test taking, the purchase of computers, laptops, and tablets. What was the social loss of educational opportunities for our kids -- loss of art, music, recess, field trips, science, social studies?

I want to know what this has cost us! Commissioner Hespe was asked by the Assembly Education Committee what the local district costs have been. He told the Committee he did not have that data, nor were they going to ask for it. So, NJDOE, who does obscene amounts of data collection on our kids, doesn't want to know what this has cost??? Seriously?

The local Board of Education in my tiny corner of Bergen County has deflected questions about costs for years. Blowing off the questions as just the usual cost of adjusting curriculum as they always have. Only, that's not true. The usual costs of maintaining excellent curriculum do not involve a complete overhaul of how teachers teach, and maybe more importantly, don't ignore how students learn.

So, time to get real. We all deserve to understand, in the most transparent way, what this has cost us. The Boards of Education who took Christie's 2% cap deal so they didn't have to bring school budgets to a local vote (like mine did), need to rescind that deal and return local control.

P.S. Well, that didn't take long. The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association's announcement of involvement on new commission.

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