Teachers Back In Driver's Seat?

Common Core will "help put teacher-professionals back where we should be: in the driver’s seat of curriculum creation," argues Sujata Bhatt on Eduwonk. She teaches in L.A.

Content-rich teacher networks and teacher-centered platforms are growing. More than 260,000 of the nation’s 3,000,000 teachers use the Teaching Channel (MG: Hi Candy) to share ideas and videos. Common Sense Media has just launched Graphite, a free platform that allows teachers to map standards and digital media products and websites. The Library of Congress allows teachers to search for primary source material by standard. Pinterest is bursting with Common Core boards, as is Teachers Pay Teachers, a marketplace where teachers can buy and sell lesson plans and curricular material.

Teacher-led professional development on the Common Core is in great demand. Teach Plus Los Angeles recently put out an announcement for a teacher-led summer conference on Common Core and, despite no monetary incentives for attendees, 1700 teachers signed up within 24 hours.

All of these are signs that beneath the anti-Common Core agitation, something else is also happening. Teachers, assisted by institutions, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs for whom Common Core creates economies of scale, are rising up to regain control of our classrooms and our professional authority in creating and curating curriculum. We should all recognize and support this movement.

Good blog.  I support this movement, and agree with the author that this issue is lost as the supporters of Common Core struggle against the pincer movement of Tea Party (this is federal overstep) and Angry Left (I don't fully understand this one, but it seems like Common Core is linked to Bill Gates and other components of Ed Reform, and therefore bad). 

My reaction: I made a similar argument in the NY Times here.

Second, national standards go nicely with the rise of blogs, self-publishing and platforms like BetterLesson.com. Some amazing teachers will sell their yearlong courses, often displacing textbook companies (or making licensing relationships with them). If you're teaching 9th grade algebra, do you want a book from Scholastic, or a whole curriculum (lesson plans, homework, classwork, a yearlong calendar, remediation plans, "Do-Nows," "Tickets-to-leave", quizzes, unit tests and a final exam) from the Teacher of the Year in, say, Philadelphia? 

And a related argument here in EdWeek, that I think there's a coming age of individual teacher choice -- on p.d. and even job description, not just on curriculum.

I would add: there's a small point about how to best make such arguments. I understand why someone might go with: "Hey teachers: let's regain control. Rah rah." But sometimes that sort of phrasing sets off warning signals to others who aren't teachers, because individual teacher control may or may not be in the interest of students.

(I happen to believe if individual teachers will be held accountable for student results, then individual teacher control on inputs should logically follow.* The charter school bargain, applied to individual teachers. But others argue: "Hey, that accountability simply is not there yet. So we (district and state policymakers) need to control inputs.")

My guess is Common Core, if adopted -- and remember, while most districts and charter schools plunge ahead assuming widespread adoption, I don't think politically this is a done deal -- will accelerate the proliferation of curriculum creation. Particularly it will incentivize real-life-teachers-in-the-trenches to self-publish, because the common market becomes so big, to get 1% of all Grade 3 teachers is still probably 2000 or so teachers in USA buying your stuff. A few of these curricula will emerge as awesome for kids -- awesome for teachers too, but it's the student interest which is why we should want this to happen, and how arguments should be framed. Though maybe I'm being naive.  Wouldn't be the first time. 

*I argue that teacher choice can come in 2 ways. One is individual choices if held accountable -- a teacher in a district becomes tantamount a charter of one teacher (flexibility in exchange for results). The more common version of teacher choice, which happens now in charters and pilot schools in Boston, is the right of an individual teacher to join a school where a basket of decisions is made, and the teacher feels at home there. This, rather than a typical district school: there is no common agreement among teachers on a bunch of key decisions; hence the school leader fights an unending and often hopeless battle to unite teachers with reasonable but sharply competing views; because those views were never aired or resolved during the hiring process.