Reactions to the U.S. Common Core Standards

Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany

The New York Times Online, July 21, 2010: “Less than two months after the nation’s governors and state school chiefs released their final recommendations for national education standards, 27 states have adopted them and about a dozen more are expected to do so in the next two weeks. Their support has surprised many in education circles, given states’ long tradition of insisting on retaining local control over curriculum.” (click here to read more).

I agree, this is surprising, and I am wondering what we, over here in Germany and elsewhere in the world, can learn from all his. Any comments?


2 responses to “Reactions to the U.S. Common Core Standards

  1. Pattipeg Harjo

    I’m a Spanish teacher in Oklahoma. Do you have national standards in Germany? State standards? I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon just yet–I think the UK has had national standards for some time, and they’re beginning to question them.

    The standards are not really the concern amongst many teachers, but rather how one assesses achievement of the standards. All standardized assessment is based on scantron tests–multiple choice and true false. As a L2 teacher, how do you tests oral or writing skills with a scantron test? How does one test the ability to synthesize? We are having so many severe problems with testing companies, creating tests that don’t really measure what the company says they measure; errors in grading and reporting; and then there’s the cheating that increases significantly with high-stakes testing. (Some teachers think: If my job depends on how well my students do on one test, I’m going to make sure they do well!)

    My recommendation: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  2. Dear Pattipeg Harjo,

    Thank you for your comment!

    National Standards for German and Foreign Language Education were introduced over here a few years ago, mainly perhaps to ensure a) that the mother tongue und foreign language levels of proficiency attained by learners in the various German ‘Bundesländer’ (the federal states of Germany which are, ultimately, responsible for education) can be compared to each other; that b) all children and teenagers attending secondary schools in Germany attain similar levels of proficiency in German and in English (as well as in French), and that c) teachers do their very best to help learners meet the targets laid out in the ‘Bildungsstandards’ (i.e. the education standards). Accountability, etc. … more or less the same discussion over here.. So far so good, but nevertheless …

    Over the past few years, and on this website as well (see my post on ‘mass production’ in education), I have critized the overall approach (what does this really have to do with ‘Bildung’ anymore – i.e. education as a long-term process of culture-sensitive self-formation)?

    Apart from these more fundamental considerations, ‘teaching to the test’ is an equally important problem in Germany as well. (How do you assess/evaluate intercultural communicative competence, via ‘critical incidents, as has been suggested in the research literature – and tried out in the national German DESI-study?).

    Anyway, over here, tests are not developed by private companies, not yet that is, but a tendency to reduce assessment and evaluation to only those aspects that are easy to test in practice (multiple choice, etc). is clearly visible.

    PS:: In Germany, English is the No. 1 foreign language taught in schools. Traditionally, Latin or French come next (i.e. at grammar school level – those schools that traditionallly lead to the ‘Abitur’, the central university entrance qualification). But interest in Spanish is growing. More and more German secondary school children and teenagers are interested in learning Spanish rather than French.

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