Craig Cheslog can recite a litany of reasons why the Common Core standards will be good for public education.
"They teach 21st century skills," he said. "They teach the ability to communicate, to adapt, to work in teams and solve problems, to analyze and conceptualize, to manage one's self, to create, innovate and criticize."
Goodbye, teacher lectures and rote memorization. Hello, student engagement and critical thinking. What took educators so long?
Cheslog concedes, however, not everyone has embraced the new teaching platform that is sweeping through California schools. He would know. He's the principal adviser to Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, and spends a fair amount of time promoting -- and defending -- the new standards.
That's what he was doing last week in Walnut Creek at a meeting of the Democratic Club of Diablo Valley, where he was greeted by about two dozen nodding heads and several sets of furrowed brows.
"I suspect some of you are skeptical," he said before setting out to convert them.
He said Common Core focuses on concepts: how answers are found more than what they are. He said mastery of foundational skills will replace recitation of facts soon forgotten after tests.
He said the need for Common Core standards was best explained by education professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University:
"They are to prepare students to work at jobs that do not yet exist, creating ideas and solutions for products and problems that have yet to be identified, using technologies that have not been invented."
It makes you wonder how we ever learned to Tweet without them.
The reasons for resistance?
Foremost, the initiative represents change and a lot of people hate that. More nonfiction reading will be expected. Written test answers will replace multiple-choice. The Academic Performance Index, by which California schools have been measured, will be replaced by a new rating. But perhaps no change has stirred more complaint than the way math is to be taught.
A sample grade-school problem (32 -12 =?) went viral as soon as it went online.
Here's how to find the difference between 32 and 12: You add 3 to 12 and get 15; then add 5 to 15 and get 20; then add 10 to 20 to get 30; and add 2 to 30 to get 32. If you then add 3+5+10+2, you arrive at the answer (20). This process supposedly shows how subtraction works. Some think it shows that Common Core is a mistake.
Last week's critics also had security concerns about "longitudinal studies" -- behavioral and performance files on each student -- to make student transfers more seamless. (Don't pin those on Common Core; they're compiled at each state's discretion.) Doubters also cited experts who have questioned Common Core's academic value. Cheslog said he can cite just as many with supporting views. So there.
Bottom line: This big change in education is reminiscent of a lot of big changes that went before.
Remember the California Learning Assessment Program? How about the Pupil Testing Incentive Program? Or the Assessment of Applied Academic Skills? The Standardized Testing and Reporting program? The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress?
If you don't like what's happening, just wait. It's sure to change.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.