Are Common Core Standards the ‘Ceiling’ or the ‘Floor’?
First the Common Core proponents told us Common Core was internationally benchmarked and researched based. They withdrew the internationally benchmarked claim (now they are internationally ‘informed’) and we have yet to see any research presented to prove the claim that the standards were researched or even field tested before they were adopted and implemented.
For years we’ve heard how they are ‘higher and rigorous’ and they will prepare students for college and career. The kicker in that statement is that the college that these ‘higher, rigorous’ standards will only prepare students for 2 year community colleges.
The more you hear about the standards and claims that have been withdrawn, it makes a truly critical thinker start thinking ‘something’s rotten in Denmark’ when what’s uttered as truth is exposed as a half-lie or half-truth, depending on your definition.
Early on, it was the contention of those common core facilitators (those individuals paid by school districts to provide the professional development necessary…even as we were told CCSS didn’t ‘tell teachers how to teach’) that the Common Core standards were not the ‘ceiling’, no, they were ‘the floor’. They were the expectations all children should know. From a NEA 2011 newsletter about Douglas Reeves, a professional trainer, explaining Common Core in 2011 in a presentation to teachers:
Reeves noted that the Common Core Standards are a floor, not a ceiling. Local teachers and administrators will need to add requirements to add value to the education of students.
That statement is quite interesting as Achieve (one of the NGOs involved in the creation of the standards) in 2010 stated something quite differently. From:
on the road to implementation – Achieve
The K-12 Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent a major advance … Adding to the Common Core State Standards: Addressing the “15%” Guideline.
Which concepts and skills required in your state’s standards are not included in the Common Core State Standards? At the end of the analysis, states should generate a list of their state standards that were not included in the CCSS. This list will identify the content unique to the state and the state needs to carefully consider whether any of this content rises to the level of consideration for addition per the 15% guideline based on the strategic priorities of the state. States are likely to find that most of the content not included in the CCSS is extraneous and easily discarded.
That does not lead one to critically think that these standards were ‘always intended to be a minimum’ with language ‘allowing’ states to add 15% and that most of the content that states would want to add would be, well, ‘extraneous and easily discarded’, now does it?
From the same document with references to the ‘floor’ and the ‘ceiling’:
on the road to implementation – Achieve
Achieve August 2010. Achieving the Promise of the Common Core State Standards. The K-12 Common … Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Achieve was a ….. situation where the floor becomes the ceiling and instead provide incentives for students who achieve the college and …
By creating a continuum of indicators, states can accomplish two things that most accountability systems today do not. First, they can ensure that students who are identified as off track get the attention and resources they need to get back on track before it’s too late. Second, they can avoid a situation where the floor becomes the ceiling and instead provide incentives for students who achieve the college and career readiness standard earlier in high school to continue to strive for more. This represents a new vision of the kind of information states should collect, report, and enable schools and districts to use.
Well, good Lord, in the same document Achieve has just told us that adding extra standards would not be in the state’s interest. So these statements directly contradict each other. Even if you had not read Achieve’s statements about the 15%, that statement about incentives is just babble and double speak.
As states are preparing for cut scores for the standards, they by defacto become the ceiling. By taking the scores from the CCSS ‘floor’ and making them the scores of proficiency, then they are indeed the ceiling. What else is being assessed? NOTHING. So all the double talk about ‘provide incentives’ for students who continue to strive for more is just nonsense. WHAT incentives?
Perhaps if the creators of Common Core would speak out on the initiative and their deliberations on the standards (such as Jonathon Gruber did with the ACA) we could put these arguments to a rest. However, we can pull from Achieve documentation and determine fairly well what the intent of the standards are in terms of if they are the minimum or the maximum.
Here is more on the ‘floor’ vs ‘ceiling’ by Dr. Yong Zhao, a respected educational researcher:
Chapter 1: The Wrong Bet
by A Einstein – Related articles
was born with the official launch of the Common Core State. Standards (Common … Officers (CCSSO). The press … [NGA Center] & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). ….. ated status and stakes, the floor usually becomes the ceiling.
It is clear that defining a common curriculum and enforcing it through high-stakes testing results in an educational experience aligned with the curriculum. The core curriculum, however defined, becomes the de facto full curriculum. The floor, that is the basic essential knowledge, becomes the ceiling. Perhaps this is what the reformers intend and expect to have.
In fairness, advocates of internationally benchmarked standards are intelligent people with good intentions. They recognize that a child’s education should be much more than the core subjects, but what they fail to recognize is the reality that the subjects that carry the most stakes for students and schools are the ones that receive the most attention and resources. Other subjects become peripheral and disposable. It has also been argued that the core curriculum only prescribes the essential knowledge and skills and should be the foundational knowledge and skills a child needs, thus it is not the ceiling, rather the floor. Unfortunately, due to the differentiated status and stakes, the floor usually becomes the ceiling. The basic becomes the ultimate goal. This is what has been referred to as curriculum narrowing.
Does ‘curriculum narrowing’ mean ‘dumbing down’? It sounds as if what is ‘one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor’. Regardless of what paid consultants tell your teachers, use your common sense and know that 85% of mandated standards is the vast majority of what is covered in your child’s classroom. Non-common core curriculum will not be assessed so how much focus will be applied to the 15%? This small minimum ‘allowed’ for states to add to the 85% is frowned upon by Achieve. This does not lend credibility to the current line of proponents that the standards are indeed the floor. They are the ceiling with little to no room for addition or ‘incentives’.
Think of it as ‘you can keep your curriculum if you like it’ line of thinking. Theoretically it’s correct, however in practice, it’s not happening. Just look at the MSBA powerpoint on Common Core/MSIP5 changes, noting ‘local curriculum’ will align to The Missouri Learning Standards. Sure! You can use any curriculum…but, it must be aligned to the MLS, aka Common Core State Standards. Some choice, eh?
So what do you think the next ‘misinformation’ from the proponents will be?
(This post evolved from a comment left in response to a previous post)
Published on November 22, 2014