Okay I admit it, I am officially overwhelmed.

I made a commitment to read the Common Core Standards this week.  I have read, marked up, skimmed, read some more, skimmed some more and am totallybrain dead.  The Common Core Standards in the manner they are written is very daunting for me to read or learn more about the standards and direction that I will be teaching in the future.
Maybe it is just me, but I am seriously questioning how I will implement these standards into my classroom over the course of the next few years?  I hope that the Maine State Department of Education provides the teacher in the classroom multiple opportunities for training in implementing these standards.  A single 4 or 6 hour training session is not going to be of much use.  If they hope to do a train the trainers and then have those trainers train their local school district type of professional development for this Common Core Standards implementation it will fail miserably and be implemented poorly at the school level.
While reading the standards I marked up some over-arching points that I have questions or comments about:

“in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.”

This is a great ideal, but is the reality that all students are going to be ready for college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school?  What about students that don’t want to attend college, those that don’t or won’t meet these rigorous standards by the end of today’s typical high school experience?

“The Standards are intended to be a living work: as new and better evidence emerges, the Standards will be revised accordingly. “

I understand the authors’ intent for this to be a good thing, but what protections are in place to ensure that something like what happened in Texas does not take place at the national level?  This is one of the things about the Common Core Standards that scares me the most, who re-writes the standards in the future?

“The Standards set requirements not only for English language arts (ELA) but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.”

These standards are requirements that once adopted by the States become the way it is.  This is going to be a huge change for those teachers to be held responsible for literacy in their classroom and looking back to my previous comment about who re-writes these standards will also get to re-write what our students learn about history and science.

…”In short, students who meet the Standards develop the skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language.”

Again a great generic statement, but what about those students who do not meet the standard and will never meet these standards, what do we do with them?  How does not meeting these standard impact their future?  I guess that is left to the State or Local school district.

“Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade- specific standards, retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades, and work steadily toward meeting the more general expectations described by the CCR standards.”

What happens when students do not meet CCR standards for their grade level?  I understand that Maine’s RTTP proposal discusses lessening the importance of grades and becoming more flexible, but will school district’s go along with that change?

“The Standards set grade-specific standards but do not define the intervention methods or materials necessary to support students who are well below or well above grade-level expectations. No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom. However, the Standards do provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students.”

This paragraph gives me the biggest headache, the Common Core Standards go into such rich detail on where students should be at each grade level, yet they completely abdicate any responsibility on students that will need remediation, they have provided a great deal of documentation on attainment or setting the bar, but only vague encouragement on what is going to be the largest issue with these Standards – how to assist students who do not meet/can not meet and will not meet these very rigorous standards.  That is the reality and that is going to happen.

“The Standards should also be read as allowing for the widest possible range of students to participate fully from the outset and as permitting appropriate accommodations to ensure maximum participation of students with special education needs. For example, for students with disabilities reading should allow for the use of Braille, screen-reader technology, or other assistive devices, while writing should include the use of a scribe, computer, or speech-to- text technology. In a similar vein, speaking and listening should be interpreted broadly to include sign language.”

Similarly, the Common Core Standards are very limited and weak with their assistance to those of us who teach Special Education.  They provide this paragraph and a letter addendum Application to Students with Disabilities that says absolutely nothing to help the Special Education Teacher implement these standards in our classrooms.  Do we teach the grade level standard that the student(s) are at or do we attempt to teach the grade level they are in with accommodations and modifications?  I understand that the writers of the Common Core Standards wanted to stay away, far away from Special Education student needs, but saying:

“These common standards provide an historic opportunity to improve access to rigorous academic content standards for students with disabilities. The continued development of understanding about research-based instructional practices and a focus on their effective implementation will help improve access to mathematics and English language arts (ELA) standards for all students, including those with disabilities.”

is a rather simplistic statement, does a disservice to all who provide any kind of remedial instruction and does not give this reader any warm and fuzzy feelings about how these Common Core Standards will be implemented for Special Education students.  It basically says to meet them or else…what is the or else going to be?
I am concerned that even after many years of having a Standards Based education in Maine that many schools still are not teaching or grading using standards based systems.  How will this change with the Common Core Standards?  Will it?  I actually doubt it very much a lot of lip service has been given to Standards Based Education but not many actually teach that way.

When do we hold our students accountable for the standards?  Do our present Middle Schoolers have to meet these Standards to graduate from high school?

I have many questions about the implementation of the Common Core Standards here in Maine and how we will actually go about it.  I am concerned that proper training and professional development will not be correctly done, due to the lack of funds (after all we are in the midst of a financial crisis in education in case no one has noticed) and that it will be implemented poorly or piece meal at best.

As I said at the start of this post, I am overwhelmed by the number and complexity of these standards.  Perhaps it is only because this is my initial close review of them, but I do not believe that I will be alone in this feeling.  If I as a trained education professional feels overwhelmed by the Common Core Standards, how will most non-educators feel about it.  Most of them will not even read it due to its length and complexity and will rely on “others” to tell them what is in it and how great it is for their children or grandchildren. Is that a good thing?  I don’t think so, but it is the reality as I see it.

Oh well I certainly have a lot more learning to do in regards to the Common Core Standards and I have a sneaking suspicion that it will cause me a lot more work before it is all said and done.  I am not against educational standards per se, having a road map, so that I know what students are expected to know is actually fairly helpful to me in planning for my classroom.

However, there are so many different standards for ELA, that I haven’t been able to wrap my head around all the expectation and how to implement them in a Special Education Resource Room English class.  Who knows maybe there will be a graduate level class I can take that focuses on implementing CCR into my classroom – more money for someone.
Finally, as a Special Education Teacher, I worry that my present and future students are going to be left holding the wrong end of the stick “yet again”.  I agree with the idea of aiming high, but you know sometimes, I wonder sometimes if the people who put these Standards together live in the same world that I seem to be living in?