The outcry against Common Core standards needs to be met by a voice of reason. Just such a perspective was presented by Edward L. Glaeser in his June 14 op-ed “Unfounded fear of Common Core.”
When I hear critics of standards, I am reminded of my early years teaching in Boston public schools. In 1970, depending on what school you were teaching in, you could have access to books and materials or not. For students in some schools, filling in workbooks and worksheets and occupying a seat was what passed for earning a diploma.
Some years later, as a coordinator of middle school language arts under a federal grant, I continued to witness a huge range in what was offered to students and what was expected of them. For some, there was no writing on a regular basis, just practice on sheets to “remedy weaknesses.” Meanwhile, in other happier schools, teachers saw the value in daily writing exercises .
The movement that established state standards and now national standards is one of many reforms that has helped reduce those inequities.
Recently, as a supervisor for student teachers in graduate study at UMass Boston, I saw strong evidence of how high standards inform classroom teaching. My team of teachers works at the Harbor School, a pilot school in Dorchester where high expectations and standards are clearly stated for all students, not just those pre-selected to excel.
None of my novice teachers thinks that meeting the standards is easy, and all had empathy for students who have to struggle to succeed. But the fact that high standards are embedded in the classroom culture every day brings every student into a world that promotes higher-order thinking and learning.