Forty-six states, the Obama administration, and American parents are trusting the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers with a lot. These organizations are, simply put, setting the standards for American education.
But their response to being entrusted with such a democratic assignment has been aloof and secretive. And it just got worse.
Last Thursday, Common Core’s blog criticized Chris Minnich–CCSSO’s director of standards–for telling Politics Daily that Shakespeare isn’t important enough to be included in the national standards. His response? To somehow convince the publication to change his quote. Here’s the original:
“They’re really looking for what students should be able to do to truly be ready for college. It means taking out some of the things that aren’t really important,” including, he says, “whether or not kids should read Shakespeare. Most of the studies say Shakespeare is not critical.”
And at some point before 5 pm the next day–Friday–the last line lost any mention of Shakespeare and turned in to: “At this point, we don’t know yet what that will be.”
This kind of hijinks is more appropriate to teenage he-said-she-said dramas than to the education policy arena. If NGA/CCSSO wants parents, teachers, legislators, scholars, anyone–even to give their effort the benefit of the doubt, their work must be more transparent. They need to tell us who is writing these standards–not just publish long committee lists. And they need to lay these documents out before the American people and provide ample time for review. As it is, even official reviewers get only 8 days to look at these important documents.
The “Common Core” standards initiative appears to be seized by the notion that there is a briefly open window in which national standards can be set. They’ve used this excuse to set a break-neck schedule and take a black-box approach. But setting national standards is an acutely difficult task that only has the chance of succeeding if standards-setters are thorough and can muster the courage to name names. That means revealing not just who is writing the documents, but–in the case of ELA standards–indicating which authors students must read. The fact that not even Shakespeare appears to have survived the “fewer, clearer, higher” test doesn’t bode well…