The implementation of the Common Core is an unprecedented chance to “do school differently” for greater impact. While progress at the state level has been significant, we must also seize this opportunity to redesign schools to enable personalized learning. This means fundamentally reshaping the use of human capacity, technology, time, and money, to provide both recuperative and accelerative opportunities for all students. This will open pathways for more young people to graduate.So far, much work has gone into retooling many of these elements individually. Many states, districts, and schools have made essential progress in changing teacher preparation and professional development to help talented educators enter and stay in the classroom. There have also been pushes for interventions like additional learning time, new curricula, and new technology, much of which has been shown to have a significant impact on student achievement. However, applied individually, each of these fails to get our schools and school systems where they need to be to serve every student. By purposefully integrating many of these advances in a comprehensive school design, much more can be accomplished than applying each individually.For example, strengthening teaching receives much necessary attention, and significant leaps have been made in supporting educators. Now is the time to assess whether addressing teaching talent alone is enough to close the student proficiency gaps exposed by the Common Core within approximately the next five years. In a recent modeling exercise, analysts from McKinsey & Company used available estimates of what can be accomplished by top-quartile teachers (those able to “move” student performance at the rate of 1.25 grade levels per year, as triangulated from research by the Measures of Effective Teaching team, The New Teacher Project, Education Trust – West, and Eric Hanushek) to test whether or not it might be possible to avoid large drops in graduation rates using human capital strategies alone. The short answer is no: even coordinated, rapid, and highly effective efforts to improve high school teaching would leave millions of students achieving below the level needed for graduation and college success as defined by the Common Core. Initiatives designed to strengthen teaching, whether through improved curriculum, excellent professional development, or hiring well-prepared teacher candidates, will be tremendously important to standards implementation, but they cannot possibly meet the demand to raise student achievement to Common Core levels unless they are part of more far-reaching changes in school design. [bold-face is mine]
The goal of Carnegie “Challenge” research papers is “to lift up ideas and issues in a way that we hope will elevate them to the nation’s agenda.” So, why has this all-important finding not influenced the debate over the Common Core agenda?Apparently, Carnegie seeks to focus on the positive. If, over the last few years, systems had focused on building personalized learning environments and if states had invested unlimited billions of dollars on high-poverty schools, Common Core might not have become a trainwreck. If New York City’s “Small Schools” (generously funded by the Gates Foundation and others) had actually served the “same kids” as students in large failing high schools, in theory the same expensive methods could have eased the transition to Common Core.It is now 2014, however, and high-poverty schools across the nation have yet to receive a blank check and the freedom to stop the education malpractice of teaching to the bubble-in test. I suspect that the Carnegie Corporation doesn’t want to explicitly criticize the Gates Foundation’s commitment to test-driven accountability. But, surely it doesn’t anticipate a happy ending to Common Core implementation and testing in 2015.