Putting the Horse Before the Cart

I have a sneaking suspicion that like many members of Congress who never read bills before voting on them, many teachers are trying to implement standards without knowing very much about them themselves.  Take a random sample of math teachers (elementary, middle, or high school; rural, suburban, or urban; it doesn’t matter) and my guess is that fewer than half—much fewer—have read any part of the Common Core State Standards document at all, much less in its entirety.

Classroom teaching when done right is a tough, all-consuming vocation in which making it to the finish line at the end of the day with just enough left over to do it all over again the following day, let alone think about how it all fits together, is all that most teachers can manage.  Teaching, at least as it is currently structured in the United States, is not a profession that is implicitly or explicitly encouraging of introspection and reflection, but a manic dash from August to June.

Professional development is, and has been, woefully inadequate, focusing more on teaching methodologies than instilling a deep understanding of the standards themselves.

Is it any wonder that most of us have a vague notion at best of what the Common Core Standards are all about?  Is it any wonder that many teachers confuse standards with instructional strategies, thinking that all that is needed for curricula to be Common Core aligned is for them to have things like collaborative group work, problem-based lessons or project-based units, and copious amounts of technology in excess?  While these may be necessary, they are certainly not sufficient markers of curricula that implement the Common Core Standards with fidelity.

While I have spent the last couple of summers going through the high school standards in an attempt to get an intuitive sense of both the forest and the trees, I still don’t feel as if I can grasp the vision in its entirety.  One of my goals for the year is to really be attentive to what the standards are saying and what that looks like in a classroom—in my classroom.

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