Sorry, Carol Burris: Common Core will Benefit Minorities

Recently, accomplished educator and principal Carol Burris spoke out in a piece titled 4 Common Core ‘flimflams'” on the Washington Post blog Answer Sheet. Burris uses a lot of strong arguments against the standards, managing to play on every anti-Common Core fear and exaggeration possible to prove a few points that are completely unfounded.

Several educators including Maricela Montoy-Wilson and Erin Dukeshire have written rebuttals to Ms. Burris, pointing out the exaggerations and flat-out non-truths in her piece. I wanted to add my own rebuttal, from the perspective of an African American male educator who now oversees the training of the next generation of teachers from my post at a Historically Black College.

Common Core Standards are GOOD for minorities. 

You can twist the standards, and benchmarks, and testing requirements any direction you want to try to prove the opposite but the plain truth is this: Common Core Standards have the potential to close the achievement gap and are already doing just that. Ms. Burris would have you believe that there is really no merit to this claim, but she’s wrong.

In a piece for Education Post, Ann Whalen rightly points out the way that elevated standards are already benefiting minority students in areas like Massachusetts where African American students scored 14 scale points higher than the national average on the NAEP mathematics assessment. Similarly, tests based on higher classroom standards in New York City showed the highest achievement gains among Latino and black students than any other category of students.

Elevated academic standards are proving beneficial in these areas because of something that many Americans are afraid to admit: minorities CAN perform at high academic levels and keep up with their white peers. Common Core Standards work because they do not ask LESS of minorities, but because they ask for more.

More critical thinking. More integration of text and visual learning. More conversation. More questions that demand heightened answers. Minorities and students who are socio-economically disadvantaged will not fall through the cracks of a heightened learning and assessment environment, but will be expected to rise to the occasion.

Look, the bottom line is that dumbing down standards for any group of students is a mistake, and making them easier for minorities has even graver consequences. Instead of trying to accommodate the lowest common denominator of our student groups and simply letting students squeak by, educators should be embracing more challenging curriculum that prepares each student, regardless of race or life circumstance, for the world stage. Despite detractors who say differently (including Carol Burris), Common Core Standards ARE internationally benchmarked and have been aligned with the standards in place in other high-performing areas of the world.

Why, as a society, do we push back against progress when it comes to the elevation of our minority student community? Or, perhaps even worse, why do we downplay educational strides that minorities achieve? The success of one group of students enhances the experiences of others and helps society in so many ways — from a stronger economy to a smaller amount of people incarcerated.

Common Core has the potential to close achievement gaps, and is proving its ability to that end already. Undermining these strides, as Ms. Burris does in her latest rant, is a disservice to the minority community and really to society overall.

At what point do we stop trying to poke holes in Common Core implementation and embrace it for its strengths?


Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

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