Education Reform From the Teacher's Perspective

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Public discourse over the Common Core State Standards is becoming quite literally a two-headed monster (think Hydra in all those movies based on ancient Greece). I read two dueling opinions in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning that left me scratching my head in wonder.

The first article I read was quite articulate in its disparaging of how damaging the Common Core will be. The author, George Ball, referenced a rather silly drawing by Edward Lear, Manypeeplia Upsidedownia, and used this as his basis for why the Common Core is bad. He argues that it further enhances the standardized test mentality that has invaded our school systems, calling our students "pedagogic guinea pigs."

The second article I read was also very well written and it praised the Common Core because the author, Michael Kirst, believes that the Common Core will make it more possible for our students to be ready for college and career. He argues that many students leave High School with a diploma but without the ability to succeed in today's competitive work and college environments.

Both opinions are popular and I will not say whether they are valid or not. However, I do believe that in order to kill this particular two-headed Hydra, one needs to consider who the authors are and what their motivations might be. Article one was written by George Ball. Mr. Ball is a past president of The American Horticultural Society and the current chairman of W. Atlee Burpee & Co. Not to actually disparage Mr. Ball, but he is a seed grower. What does he know about public education except for the 12 years he spent there?

Conversely, the second article was written by Michael Kirst, a professor emeritus at Stanford University and the current head of the California State Board of Education. He works in the education field and might know what students need when they enter college and what they are lacking under the current patchwork of standards.

As an educator myself, I tend to believe that someone inside the education field might have a more relevant view of the Common Core than a man who runs a seed company. He might have an idea or two about how seeds grow, but I cannot believe he really knows how children grow.

Dr. James Norwood is a middle school teacher (English/Language Arts and Drama). He is very passionate about true education reform that reaches all students and all parents. Dr. Norwood possess a PhD in the area of curriculum and instruction and spends much of his time working with his school and district developing a more holistic approach to the curriculum. Contact me


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