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John Romano: Tweaks to Common Core don't help schools, weaken confidence in system

So the state's Department of Education has released its proposed changes to the Common Core academic standards, and let me be the first to say:

Yowza!

I have never seen such bold and courageous tweaking.

Education officials heard the cries of parents and the shouts of the politically active, and they responded by changing a few words, moving several commas and pinning our children's hopes and dreams on the rescue of cursive writing lessons.

In other words, they sorta rubber-stamped the whole shebang.

You have to admit, this was an interesting gambit. By declining to embrace Common Core — while at the same time refusing to substantially revamp it — state leaders have run the risk of ticking off everyone.

These changes will certainly not appease the hard-core tea party activists who believe Common Core is an Obama-hatched plot to brainwash America's youth.

And it doesn't appease the conspiracy-minded crowd (that's me with the bad haircut in the second row) who worry that Common Core is a little too cozy with the standardized testing companies who stand to reap gazillions from this idea.

It even takes a backhanded swipe at Common Core cheerleaders (Hello, Jeb Bush!) by loudly suggesting the state has a better solution even though little was actually changed.

So where do all of these faux fixes leave Florida now?

Probably worse off than yesterday.

All that was accomplished by this political grandstanding was a weakening of the public's confidence in Common Core, a set of academic standards our Tallahassee elite seem to forget they adopted enthusiastically and voluntarily four years ago.

And instead of addressing legitimate concerns about these new standards — A) Can they correct the achievement gap? B) Will the reliance on standardized tests give classrooms a Wal-Mart-esque atmosphere of blandness and quotas? C) How can we trust still-to-be created tests without serious vetting? — we've been given window dressing.

Sad to say, this was entirely predictable. And nonetheless infuriating.

For years and years, the mantra in education circles has been accountability. Student accountability. Teacher accountability. School accountability.

And yet our leaders refuse to hold themselves accountable.

They will not admit their obsession with assessment tools has not only led to flawed and unjust results, but has also wasted untold millions in taxpayer dollars and classroom instruction time.

It's been said here before, and it needs to be said again:

The best thing our education leaders can do for our children is to tap the brakes on these reforms.

This doesn't necessarily mean we revamp or abandon Common Core. It doesn't mean we give up on accountability or the raising of standards. What it means is we should introduce reform in a careful and controlled way.

Choose a handful of rural and metropolitan school districts and see how the new standards and assessments seem to be working. Study the data. Check with students, teachers and administrators to gauge the effectiveness of lessons.

It might seem like a radical idea in this field, but perhaps we should try to educate ourselves before we move ahead.

John Romano: Tweaks to Common Core don't help schools, weaken confidence in system 01/13/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 8:58am]
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