If instruction--teachers' core responsibility--is going to shift, it will happen because teachers decide to re-think their mission and the parameters of their work, not because lawmakers adopt the Common Core or devise teacher evaluation systems largely based on standardized testing, in hopes of getting federal money. The moment for genuine teacher leadership may indeed be now, although not in the way Arne Duncan thinks. Let's step up.
When kids and parents and community members comment on a particularly gifted teacher, it's the ability to light a fire around learning, through passion and compassion, that they're identifying. In fact, when even the most punitive and pro-privatization legislator rhapsodizes about his extraordinary fourth grade teacher (and why such teachers are rare in "failing" schools), high test scores or rigorous teacher-evaluation standards are never mentioned.
What if there were another source for policy models--policy based on working toward equity, preserving what's good in our vast public school infrastructure? What kinds of policies--not reactions to misguided policies, but new ideas--would educators produce?
Our only possible ethical response to human suffering--cultural holocausts--is to try to take the sacrifices made in humanity's historical tragedies and make them sacred, through remembrance and honor. That's an enormously difficult thing to do, fraught with false equivalencies and cultural misappropriation. But is it wrong to try?
Is it possible to let satire, over-exaggeration and post-modern irony dull us to the fact that some things are always deeply, inherently immoral? Is it wrong to use historic, genocidal travesties or ruthless repressions as analogies for current events? Is it ever OK to pull out the Hitler card?
There's no such thing as a completely objective grade. Compiling, weighting and averaging numbers often leaves a good teacher with a grade that doesn't reflect what he understands about the child in question--what that child actually knows and can do.
We can do much better than "prepare" students for the next educational level. And--should we even be thinking about how to prepare students for an efficient (read: profitable) workplace? Is that our job as educators?
What kind of teaching force do we want, anyway? Are we looking for a diverse mix of candidates--those who grew up in the tough neighborhoods where they want to teach, those coming to the classroom after success in another career or raising children? Do we want content experts? Passionate advocates for children? Role models? How do we test for those things?
There are lots of reasons to oppose the Common Core. But disaggregating the good reasons from the outright baloney is important. When we join the crazies, we reinforce their craziness and further muddy the discourse, if that's even possible. Opponents of the Common Core might get what they want--the end of the CCSS --but other, very negative consequences in addition: further damage to, and fear-based withdrawal from, public schools, for starters.
The kids I worry about? The ones society has decided are not worth the effort. Who are usually in schools where the arts and lots of other programming once considered essential are nonexistent.