I’m not trying to butter up the folks at Ed Week. Really. I’ve been meaning to mention for a while how much I love the title of their blog that follows all things curriculum — “Curriculum Matters.” Obviously, we agree.
Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution deserves the credit for reminding me how much I like it. Curriculum Matters’s Catherine Gewertz posted a blog about his 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education, released last week. Loveless addressed a range of topics, including reminding the world that the data suggests a tenuous connection if any between the quality of standards and student achievement. By extension, Loveless argues that “despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning.”
That seems like a big jump. We agree that standards aren’t enough. So what does matter? Well, curriculum matters. And what, increasingly, is the task of curriculum-making based on? STANDARDS, of course. It seems to me a bit of a silly shell game to walk around talking about how standards don’t matter when every educator knows that quality standards can be a crucial ingredient in improving education. Having bad standards certainly doesn’t help. And it seems like more than just a shell game, but a real exercise in putting one’s head in the sand, to dismiss the CCSS as unlikely to have impact because they are merely standards.
Are the CCSS perfect? Of course not — no standards are. But they are far better than what most states had. The mere existence of the standards does not guarantee that students will do better. But their mere existence has created an unprecedented opportunity to enhance the content and improve the quality of instruction in every classroom in 46 states and DC. The standards have caused districts to look closely at curriculum, professional development, and much else that hasn’t been working and to consider big changes. Could all of this school and district-level focus on improving the content and quality of classroom instruction leverage meaningful improvement on a significant scale? I hope even the most seasoned DC education wonk would say “yes.”