Sunday, September 2, 2012

SpringBoard: Common Core Crap

I recently had the unfortunate opportunity to examine a SpringBoard assignment, sent to me by a concerned parent with a child in seventh grade.  SpringBoard is the latest and greatest curriculum creation of The College Board which is led by no less than David Coleman, the well known architect of the Common Core. 

Their website states, "SpringBoard is fully aligned to the Common Core State Standards and helps all students and teachers reach the goals of the Common Core Initiative. The Common Core Standards provide the “what” in the form of required achievements for students. Curriculum materials must provide the “how” to help students achieve the standards outlined." 

Ch Ching.

This particular assignment from SpringBoard was titled Writing Workshop. I found this to be highly intriguing as I spent my entire teaching career using Writer's Workshop with my students, and finally supporting teachers in implementing the many fine nuances found within this complex teaching practice. Writer's Workshop allows for authentic writing as the students engage in the writing process and culminates in publication for a real audience. To the observer who knows little about Writer's Workshop, it may appear as an extremely messy process, but the highly skilled teacher understands the incredible organization that is needed to implement such a workshop successfully. Let's just say - it ain't easy. The process is full of writing, reading, talking, brainstorming, sharing and giving feedback, within a room that has a constant buzz filled with the energy of ideas and the empowerment of the student voice.  All in all, it is beautiful. The high level of engagement is contagious – the urgency and excitement with which ideas are expressed – the smiles, the struggles and the support of the learners as they work together in groups to revise their writing pieces - it is authentic learning. One minute the teacher is sharing her own writing by thinking aloud as she writes on chart paper, the next she is with a small group, then she is roving, and finally she is conferencing with individual students. The children are fluid – they move from space to space – they have command of their work, their resources - and they know what they need to do to in order to meet their own personal writing goals.


Those were the days…

Please see the following screen shots from SpringBoard, a new college and career ready curriculum that is followed lockstep by teachers. Students at home can log in and print out assignments and get their questions addressed online. Needless to say, this is unlike any Writer's Workshop I have ever seen. Best practices, such as Writer's Workshop, will be destroyed at the hands of Common Core because it simply will not fit into the mold needed to create measurable data.

In this first screen shot the children are asked to create a graphic of the writing process. I am unsure why this is necessary, if they are indeed engaged in their own authentic writing process, which - call me crazy - would indeed be its own graphic, now wouldn't it? I am sure that struggling readers will be hell bent on addressing the "recursive" nature.

Here, the student is asked to explore his/her topic further. Notice the language such as "persona." Notice the word "mode."  I am wondering how second language learners and struggling readers might do on this assignment - let alone the typical 7th grader?!!?  I am wondering how this graphic will create scripted writing as students fill it out, plugging in strong verbs as demanded, simply to be done with this as quickly as possible. In addition, children plan differently as they consider their writing. Often a child has a killer writing idea and the format comes later. Writing is messy. It cannot be contained in a worksheet. The "role of the writer" is really beyond me - should they take on a new identity or something in order to "establish a connection with your readers?" And "establish a connection" - talk about a buzz kill if you even fathomed having a good writing idea.

Now see the fill in the blank - I can promise you that my students never filled in a blank in their draftbooks let alone on a god forsaken worksheet like this one. Throwing plates yet?

Don Murray would cringe to see his name on this. Of course he is correct - often writing does bounce along - fast -  and there is nothing better than a scripted worksheet such as this to shut down that momentum. Note the last line - "Write a draft to develop points in the preliminary organizational structure?"  What??? What is this language? Do they know who their audience is? These are seventh grade students!! Not business men planning a power point for a board meeting!

And last but not least, directions for meeting in writing groups - I simply can't imagine being able to speak a coherent sentence on my own after being given this lockstep process for participating in a group. But you see, that is the goal here - teacher proof curriculum with all teachers on the same page every day, complete with a lockstep process for students to follow rather than think. Follow, don't think. 

As I said earlier, Writer's Workshop is a messy yet highly organized teaching process. It cannot be jammed into a curriculum nor can it be force fed to children. The results of this assignment are easy to anticipate - children will treat this like any other good worksheet. They will do what they need to do in order to get the grade and they will not engage (how could they?) and then they will run as quickly as they can from any mention of future writing experiences. 

This, you see, is the new world of the Common Core. We must oppose it, refuse it, deny it, defy it, f$#@ing expose it for what it is whenever we can by educating parents and teachers about the profit to be made through the creation of nonthinking, soul destroying worksheets such as these. This is not simply a set of standards - it is a set of standards designed to allow corporations the ability to create common children via common curriculum and common assessments which will be used to drain our public schools of money as they attempt to abide by the guidelines of Race to the Top. There will be more tests - many more tests - as Common Core infiltrates our schools and profits billionaires while privatizing public education. The expense will be immense and will assist in the profiteers' plans to starve the public schools while using our tax dollars to dismantle what is left. Their goal is to move as quickly as they can, take as much as they can, before we wake up and realize we've been screwed. SpringBoard is simply one example of many more to follow.

And the casualties? The children of course. Always, the children.


  1. Hey, Peg,

    While you are of course correct in all of the above, probably the question most (if not all, even your readers) parents might ask is, how is this different than other directions for school processes?

    I think many of us who are or were teachers have a sense that what we are losing is a kind of "risky autonomy," a space of possibility that can prompt the wholly untutored "self-discovery" by the students (and that reveals an opportunity for growth in the teacher as well).

    The scripts are simply getting tighter and tighter and straying from the script is no longer acceptable and instead is punishable.

    So, what this, again, as you know, is another method of control to reduce the "unknown" that might happen in a classroom, in a relationship, between student and teacher.

    It is further an expansion of authoritarian control; further still it is an expansion of "expertise" that will create further distance between the parent and the school (and between the child and the parent) by offering rules the parent cannot understand that the child must learn and apply. In other words, no parent will help with homework in the correct way.

    But, though this is indeed Power on Overdrive, it is a difference only in degree and not in kind and this is why parents on the whole would not even know why it should be opposed. Who's ever experienced freedom in school?

    So, what we must argue for is (sorry, Henry), at once, NO SCHOOL, not a a better school. But in this I mean, no large, district-or-state-managed schools.

    If people are to ever be able to be "random" they need a structure that will allow this kind of freedom.

    Teachers (and I am one and so feel this as well) want their own freedom too. But a school is a system and it requires that there is no freedom. Even our "advanced" students are not free, they are simply given different instructions in what their future can be within a separate rule-structure.

    As E.F. Schumacher offered a long time ago, Small is Beautiful. More than likely we, in our towns (probably not in our cities which are too beholden to systems of bureaucratic operation on every level, and not too mention corporate influence), will need to reconfigure the "good life" for ourselves and our children.

    But that means we have to start saying NO to almost everything at once.

  2. SpringBoard is not just a front for the Common Core. My district has used it for the past three years, well before CC, with excellent results. The first reaction was much like yours. But after using it and learning about the flexibility it gives good teachers and the guidance it gives new and struggling teachers, the faculty really enjoys it. Our kids are writing and comprehending with greater depth. Give it a chance. The training and support College Board has provided is excellent.

  3. Oh no. They are implementing Spring Bored at my son's school! More worksheet nonsense! And I've heard that grammar is not even taught with Spring Bored. And why do 11 year olds need to be college ready? How about just ready for 6th grade? Is Coleman a teacher? Thanks for the analysis. I don't know how teachers can follow scripted lessons. I just got a last minute subbing job for the first week of school (I'm an art teacher) and they are sending an arts integration specialist with lesson plans that I must follow. I am an experienced teacher and should be allowed to teach my lessons, that I know are age appropriate. I need to be flexible to adapt to needs of kids. It's insulting. Scripted art lessons! I won't do it! Angie

  4. Lisa - the key is Common Core - anything developed with the Common Core as its backbone must be refused. Common Core is the missing link needed to create more high stakes standardized tests - one for every subject - at great expense, not to mention immense suffering for our children. All of these tests, which do not improve student achievement, will be used to fail public schools and privatize public education. Common Core is not an innocent set of standards, therefore SpringBoard is simply not another innocent highly scripted curriculum. Thank you for your thoughts. For more on Common Core you ought to check out Dr. Yong Zhao!

  5. Angie - Promise me you will blog on this experience and give us a screenshot of one of those scripted art lessons!!! Be sure to check out Mrs. Dottie's blog at . Scripted art lessons - insulting indeed!!!

  6. Ah Storm...why you always gotta do that ??? :) A comment was just posted on my blog on FB - this is what it said, "This is now being imposed on our schools. You should have seen the veritable ARMY of representatives that CollegeBoard sent to our school board meeting to make sure that the deal was sealed! People who had been through many textbook adoptions said they'd never seen anything like it." This is full throttle takeover. It is my humble opinion, Storm, that teachers such as yourself, and myself, and the many others who read this blog, must be ready to pick up the pieces and create the schools children have always deserved. Teachers have always been their own worst enemies. At this point, I do not have great hopes that we will win - the corporate takeover is hitting us from every angle. I have not given up and will NOT give up - but, many of us, are now preparing for the aftermath...and when the masses wake up, we must be ready.

    1. I believe there are two kinds of good teacher: 1) a teacher who LOVES and accepts all children and has time and space and care enough to allow a safe place for development; this teacher encourages all attempts to discover and learn and feel and dream; this teacher encourages encouragement--in ALL their charges--so that all students together encourage all other students. This teacher may still say "yes" to the rules of the system and culture, but always puts the stress on the single being caring for other single beings. If the choice is between the "greater good" and the care of the single being, she chooses the single being. 2) is a teacher who is intellectually antagonistic to systems and abstract laws that serve the socially approved "ways" of living and acting and speaking and even thinking. This teacher talks about the system as if (as it is) it was a THING to learn outside of what might seem natural. This teacher agrees that society needs rules to operate but that these rules must always be challenged and confronted with a conscientiousness that, again, privileges the single being's perception of what is a right/just (?) way to be. This teacher always asks another question and encourage students to ask another question even if an answer can't be found. To understand that answers are often arbitrary even if socially acceptable.

      Two great teachers may also be found in one kind of teacher. But these teachers need to be in elementary school in droves. We must find these teachers and offer children the perspectives that will allow them to care about each other, challenge power, but know how to operate within power without losing a sense of individual value and caring.

      And yes, the current public school will be destroyed and machines will be the only implement allowed. And all information will be stored.

      I would be tempted now to advertise a pencil and paper school as a kind of nostalgia. Surely there are still folks that want to use tangibly manipulable objects to create "identity" badges like writing and drawing? Surely there are folks who want to play instruments and not manipulate sounds on a computer.

      We will need to help each other in this new world.

    2. I'm that teacher who loves all children and insists they find something in themselves to love. My behavior management tool is first getting to know who they are, so I will understand the "why" behind the things they do. When they see how much time I have spent getting to know them and finding out their dreams for the future, my students try their best to live up to my high expectations. My school district rewarded me for my efforts by not renewing my contract and allowing harassment to continue that eventually left me barely able to function. There is no room for love, compassion and dreaming in elementary school, it's a data-driven business where someone decided to sell out our children.

  7. As a retired teacher who now consults with school districts--teaching teachers about teaching (teaching as a disappearing art)-- I have been checking out the College Board curriculum, especially within grades 7-12. It removes the learning process from the pedagogy, from the student. I'm sure all those vultures meeting in Arizona are sure to love College Board and how its data-ready designed lesson planning will help bring one of them into the privatization winner's circle as the first to extract a billion dollars in profit from the remaining public schools as well as their charter schools.