Common Core Didn’t Just Have a Communications Gap Problem

Teachers at Maxwell AFB Elementary/Middle School (Air Force photo/Kelly Deichert)

Pat Reilly of PR & Company has a piece up a EdSource about how the education advocacy communications gap needs to be closed. There is merit to that general argument. When you change policy then you need to be able to persuade people which naturally means you need an effective communications strategy.

The problem with reforms like Common Core is that they essentially got it pushed through and adopted quickly and under the radar. If you want to persuade people to adopt a reform it’s typically better to do that before you implement it, not after. Otherwise there can be no real public buy-in.

That was certainly mistake number one.

Her article addresses Common Core directly.

“Common Core” was a smart approach to elevating math, until it was turned into a sinister symbol. On the right it was a liberal attempt to impose a national curriculum, while the left saw it as a misguided perpetuation of George W. Bush’s discredited No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policies.

A phrase meaningless on its own, Common Core became an easy target for misinformation because no one invested resources to determine the best terminology to bring the Common Core’s important purpose to life.

First I’m not so sure she totally understands what Common Core is since it involves more than just math. Second, this is a simplistic way of looking at the Common Core problem. The problem wasn’t branding. The problem was the standards themselves.

It wasn’t the smart approach because it was a top-down, centralized reform that circumvented the primary stakeholders – parents and taxpayers through their elected representatives. This was by design however. Also no amount of branding would make the Common Core math standards help prepare students for STEM programs in college. No changes in messaging would make the Common Core age appropriate for early elementary students. Even if Common Core didn’t become a “sinister symbol” it still would not have changed the fact it diminished the use of classical literature.

Changing up the communications strategy would not change the fact that invalid and expensive tests were being foisted on schools, and that student data privacy was at risk.

Changes in communications strategies surrounding Common Core has just put lipstick on a pig. It may look prettier, but it’s still a pig.

Tracking Common Core Spending in California is Problematic

california-state-flag

How much has California schools spent on implementing Common Core? Who knows? EdSource reports that budget laws have made tracking the money difficult.

We are shocked….

They report:

The Fresno and Visalia school districts are spending $10 million each on new schools.

San Jose Unified put about $12 million toward staff bonuses, while Santa Ana Unified spent $9 million on retiree benefits.

The money is coming from about $3.6 billion in tax revenues California’s more than 1,000 school districts received over the past two years. The Legislature specified that it “intended” for districts to “prioritize” spending of the one-time funds on implementing academic standards, including Common Core standards in math and English.

But lawmakers also told districts that they first had to spend the funds to pay for any unreimbursed claims for programs and services mandated by the state. They could also spend the funds for “any other purpose.”

That multipronged and even confusing message has prompted several advocates, along with a key legislator on education matters, to argue that the funds should have been targeted for more specific purposes – and that districts should be required to report more precisely how they spent the funds.

Unlike what we’ve seen in other states apparently unfunded mandates in California are not allowed.

Under the California Constitution, the state must reimburse school districts for new programs or higher levels of service the state imposes on them. Over the years, the state has imposed dozens of them, ranging from student health screenings to the California High School Exit Exam.

On one hand it’s great that local school districts are not on the hook for state mandates. On the other hand California loves its additional mandates on local school districts and taxpayers are still on the hook.

Local school districts should have flexibility on how it spends money, but they also need to be transparent about how much money is spent on Common Core implementation. We need to know what this monstrosity of an education reform is costing taxpayers in California and elsewhere.

Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments Delayed

Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisEdSource reported yesterday that the interim assessments for Smarter Balanced were delayed for most students.  These interim assessments were supposed to help teachers and students prepare for the new Common Core-aligned assessment rolling out this spring.

Laurie Udesky writes:

The interim assessments were supposed to give students a way to rehearse for the Smarter Balanced assessments and allow teachers to see how well students had mastered the math and English Language Arts curriculum tied to the Common Core.

That’s not how it has worked out, however. The interim assessments were supposed to be in the hands of educators last fall. But the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium didn’t complete them until the end of January, too late for most teachers or districts to use them extensively, according to interviews conducted by EdSource.

Luci Willits, deputy executive director of the Smarter Balanced consortium, told EdSource earlier this year that the release was delayed because teachers had not finished vetting test questions until late October. It was further delayed by test designers who had to field questions from states about scoring the essay portions of the assessments.

So can we expect even worse scores than what was already expected?  What a mess.

Read the rest.