The CCSSO and NGA clearly have high hopes and great expectations for their Common Core staircase…
The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.
Rather than focusing solely on the skills of reading and writing, the ELA/literacy standards highlight the growing complexity of the texts students must read to be ready for the demands of college, career, and life. The standards call for a staircase of increasing complexity so that all students are ready for the demands of college- and career-level reading no later than the end of high school.
The Common Core is a standard staircase , with a standard slope, a standard number of steps, each rising a standard distance, and it is designed to challenge the climbing skills of “standard” students.
Unfortunately the Common Core implementation kit that has been distributed to the States does not appear to include contingency plans and directions for assembling and installing the stairs for use by students who do not climb and learn in a standardized way.
Since the CCSS are a cumulative K-12 program that functions like a ladder or staircase of learning, they must be taught in sequence as acquisition of each new skill is dependent on mastery of skills learned during the prior school year.
With each school year students acquire new knowledge and understandings based on the “step” of learning the previous school year.
If students are to climb the Common Core staircase or ladder successfully, they must “spend time” on each step and begin their climb with the first step.
Common Core assessments cannot properly measure student proficiency if they are measuring standards and skills that were never taught and learned.
That is why education leaders in NY predicted correctly that student scores would drop 30% or more on the new Common Core ELA and Math assessments because they were administered to students in grades 3 through 8 who began climbing the staircase at “higher steps”.
Many learning disabled and disadvantaged students will not be able to climb the Common Core stairs by starting in the “middle” and it is not fair to expect them to do so.
The new PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments will not provide accurate and reliable student data regarding “college readiness” at every grade level, unless they are phased in one year at a time beginning with the bottom step.
Accordingly, the Common Core tests should become “operational” beginning with our youngest students and then administer a new assessment for the next grade level the following school year.
How quickly each student “climbs” the Common Core staircase is not as important as making sure that every student has an equal opportunity to do so.
If we implement and assess the Common Core in a careful and thoughtful way, “one step at a time”, we may well learn that a number of students will need to use a modified staircase that includes additional “steps” and not as steep a slope as the standard staircase.
Struggling and weaker students will not be able to “climb” the Common Core staircase without using all the “steps” and some students may even need to use two handrails.
Students will most surely not climb these stairs at the same rate of speed, as many students may need to “rest” at certain steps along the way while others may even need the assistance of a stairlift to reach the top.
It is foolish to claim that once we have installed a national set of uniform “stairs” across this country that teachers should be held accountable if their students do not learn and climb these stairs in a synchronized way.
Furthermore, the new Common Core assessments could not possibly assess the proficiency levels of middle and high school students in an accurate and reliable way, because these students never had the opportunity to learn on the lower “steps” of the Common Core staircase.
Even if VAM were not junk science, it still is not fair to test middle and high school students using Common Core assessments and then claim these scores measure the effectiveness of their teachers because we are grading the ability of students to climb up a partially completed or broken-down staircase.