Monday, February 10, 2014

The not so Iowan core of the Iowa Core

Although our governor is trying to downplay the uniform, national aspect of the Common Core and assert that the Iowa Core is a home-grown approach, it turns out that in 2011 he wrote to the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium—the designers of the standardized tests geared to the Common Core—asking to be promoted from an “advisory state” to a “governing state” and saying:
We have also adopted the Common Core standards which are now known as our Iowa Core standards. Our new Governor, State Board Chairperson, and State Director of Education believe this is the right time for Iowa to be involved in building a system of formative, interim, and summative assessments, organized around the Common Core standards.
At that point, the previous governor and his education officials had already signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to adopt the Smarter Balanced Consortium’s summative assessment by the 2014-15 school year. None of that sounds very home-grown to me.

Now the governor is facing a legislature that wouldn’t be rushed into approving the Smarter Balanced tests and a task force, created by the legislature, that could recommend different choices about assessments instead. I don’t know why our governors have been so sure that the legislature would willingly sit on the sidelines while Iowa jumped on the Common Core bandwagon.

Karen W. recently pointed out that the Iowa Core’s “21st Century Skills” standards on “civic literacy” pay scant attention to constitutional rights. The standards do (somewhat opaquely) touch on federalism, though, declaring that students must “understand the differences among the complex levels of local, state and national government and their inherent, expressed, and implied powers,” “understand the design and features of the Constitution prevent the abuse of power by aggregating power at the national, state, and local levels and using a system of checks and balances,” and “understand issues concerning the relationship between state and local governments and the national government.” I can’t say that these are the people I would put in charge of making sure my kids learn those topics. But maybe my age is showing: constitutional rights and federalism are so Twentieth Century.

Well, I’m out of hours. If I had more stamina, I’d want to look more closely at people’s objections to the standards themselves. Even if you like the idea of nationwide uniform standards, you might not like these. Some have argued, for example, that the standards for grades K-2 are developmentally inappropriate; others have argued that the high school math standards are hopelessly inadequate to prepare kids for college. Here’s a good article expressing other objections (largely from a liberal point of view) to the Common Core. But I’ll leave the further Googling to you.

Thus endeth the micro-blogathon. Not sure I’ll be signing up for another one of these any time soon.

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