The Good and the Bad in Louis C.K.’s Common Core Complaint

Parents who pay attention can make schools better.

But it was quite a leap for comedian Louis C.K. to blame his children’s problems at school on the Common Core State Standards.

My judgment isn’t meant to diminish his concern, but we need to isolate the real issue.

Louis C.K is a parent engaged in his children’s education. That’s good. He is also an entertainer with a platform on TV and on Twitter that allows him to reach millions. So, when he blasted, it made news.

But after reading his complaint and some of the responses, it is clear that it centers not on the Common Core standards, but on testing, which is not a new stress, and it is misguided to blame higher standards.

His most viral comment came in the form of a tweet where he said, “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and Common Core.”

We should ask questions like this: Are the questions truly confusing, or just hard? Was the test poorly explained? Is there something that could be learned in this round of tests that could make the next round better?

The reaction should not be to throw out the whole idea of higher standards. It should be to listen and respond appropriately.

This is just one recent blowup about the Common Core State Standards, adopted by most states to ensure our kids are learning what they need to know. We cannot overreact to criticism as some in power have by blaming the new standards for every difficult school experience.

While there is still wide-ranging support for higher standards, some states, once in full support of Common Core, have officially abandoned them, even though doing so will cost their taxpayers millions in creating new standards.

It is so disappointing to see smart public officials jump on this anti-Common Core bandwagon, just to go along for a ride they think will benefit them politically. It is the wrong direction.

Educators opposed to the Common Core, like researcher/author Diane Ravitch, have drawn a picture of a conspiracy by the private sector to make millions from selling new tests and instructional materials, and to fire teachers when students do poorly on updated standardized measurements.

I have not seen the conspiracy behind Common Core. Test and textbook publishers have sold their products for years. Testing for proficiency has been around for a long time, and the public has come to expect this type of accountability. It is not going away, and the focus should be on doing it effectively. As for teacher evaluation, in Kentucky we are adopting a teacher growth model that looks at performance in a number of ways including student achievement gains. Definitely not a simple ‘bad test results and you’re out’ philosophy.

Is there too much stress in testing? Yes. Do we need to be wary about companies seeking to sell services and materials to schools? Yes, always. But managing that is the day-to-day work of public school systems.

Continuous improvement should always be the goal in any business, and definitely in the business of educating children. They and their families are our customers. When something is not working for a child in the classroom, we get them help or improve what we are doing.

I can see many parents, including myself, having Louis C.K.’s reaction. We all want the best experience for our kids, and we should speak up when there’s a problem.

But, giving up on higher standards at the first signs of challenges is short sighted.

We need more courage than that — courage to stay the course, and courage to make improvements in these early stages.

Here’s the important part. These are higher standards so all kids can be better educated. Common Core supports teaching kids to solve problems and think critically. Common Core supports teaching persistence toward a goal.

Citizens have been calling for higher achievement. That’s the reason for the development of the Common Core State Standards. We must keep our eye on that goal.

About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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One Response to The Good and the Bad in Louis C.K.’s Common Core Complaint

  1. Brad Matthews says:

    Well said, Debbie!!! Nothing is gained by teaching to lower standards. Let’s work out the problem areas as they arise , but stay the course for the sake of all our children.

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