This is a re-post from September of 2011 as the debate over the National Common Core heats up it seemed reasonable to re-post.
National Core curriculums are like nuclear reactors, at the core of both we find a powerful but dangerous source of energy. It is true that standing too close to the core of either without proper protections may lead to complete and irreversible sterility. In the case of people they may no longer reproduce, in the case of curriculums they may become intellectually sterile and also stop producing.
The danger with all standards is that they become the acceptable norm and only have to be attained never exceeded for students to be considered successful. National standards applied to our educational system under the constraints of the NCLB will no doubt help some of our struggling students. The unintended consequence of this potentially unholy alliance between standards and the NCLB is that the majority of our resources are now being spent in attaining a minimum standard for our struggling students while our strong students are often ignored and in my opinion have already begun a regression to the mean drifting toward the established standard from the other direction. A review of students with top achievement scores in my district seems to support this hypothesis. We constantly look at and publicize the low scores in our schools but when was the last time you saw an analysis of which direction the high scoring students were trending.
No one can deny that the apple seeds are close to and surround the core of an apple and that the seeds are the true essence of what an apple is all about. But how many of us would enjoy an apple if we were only given the core and seeds instead of the sweet enticing fruit around them. Our schools are now often paring away the fruit and serving up only the inedible core for students at the table of knowledge. Could the apathy, underachievement, and lack of motivation of students simply be attributed to the flavor of the product we are serving to them?
I also fear that as we concentrate on the core and the seeds the fruit has begun to shrink and will eventually disappear altogether. It doesn’t take a particularly cogent observer to notice that our best students, as far as resources go, are slowly becoming 2nd class citizens in many of our schools, not because of what they can’t do, but because of what they can.
©2011 Richard Safris