This is the third of a 10 part series, see post #2 here.
In order for students to be able to master the Common Core, teachers are going to need instructional materials — textbooks and supplementary resources like handouts, overheads/power point slides, worksheets, etc. — aligned to the standards. Seems simple enough. Given the fact that the Common Core creates a nationwide market for such goods, where in the past providers had to develop them on a state-by-state basis, this should be solved pretty easily, right?
Welllllllllllll… not so much.
A simple trip over to Amazon to search for “Common Core” yields over 32,000 results, the lion’s share of which are guides or instructional materials for teachers. Almost all say that they are “aligned to the Common Core.” But, what does that mean?
The most popular Common Core resource, Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Teachers College professor Lucy Calkins (et al) has been in the Amazon top 1,000 books every time I’ve checked it over the course of the last year. Thinking that it was indicative of the types of materials out there, I went looking for some more information on it. In doing so, I stumbled upon this blog post, by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Common Core expert Kathleen Porter-Magee. In it, Porter-Magee refers to the book as:
“Part ideological co-opting of the Common Core (CCSS) and part defense of existing—and poorly aligned—materials produced by Heinemann, the book is the leading edge of an all-out effort to ensure that adoption of the new standards requires very few changes on the part of some of the leading voices—and biggest publishing houses—in education.”
Yikes, that is disheartening. Even the best-selling book on the topic might not be aligned to the Common Core. What about the other 31,999?
Pair that with the story of Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, John White, whose department rejected every math and reading textbook that they reviewed because they were not aligned to the Common Core, and you’ve got a real problem on your hands.
As it turns out, pretty much anyone can slap a “Common Core Aligned” sticker onto a textbook, professional development module, or supplemental resource. It is incumbent on states, districts, and schools to wade through all of these, but given the enormous volume of resources out there, they’re drinking from a fire hose. Without some meaningful vetting process, all of the benefits of the nationwide market for new tools will be washed away in the flood of misaligned materials.
As USC professor Morgan Polikoff adroitly points out in his AEI paper The Common Core Standards and Teacher Quality Reform, instructional alignment is important, because if teachers aren’t teaching what is going to be on the test, when poor test results come back we can’t tell if it is because (a) the students were taught what they needed to know but didn’t learn it or (b) the students were not taught what they need to know. Each scenario requires a vastly different response. What’s troubling is that as new materials are rolled out, it might take several years to know if the “dip” in proficiency scores that is allegedly coming is due to tests being harder or textbooks and materials not covering Common Core material adequately.
Has anyone (state, district, school, non-profit) created a way to vet these materials that folks can use to wade through all of this stuff? Are people using it? If they have and my worries are unfounded, let me know in the comments below or over on twitter (I’m @mq_mcshane).
*Also, as was pointed out to me yesterday, I incorrectly named the Governor of Michigan “Tom Snyder.” No, the old Late Late Show host is not back from the dead to run the Great Lakes State. It should have read Rick Snyder. My apologies.