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What would Piaget say about Common Core?

What would Piaget say about Common Core?

Lockers, California

Being a special ed teacher, I can't help but wonder what would Jean Piaget say about Common Core? Any teacher worth his or her salt knows that we all develop at different rates and there are multiple pathways of development. Yes, with this new reform, multiple pathways are being considered. However, heterogeneous developmental rates are not. When considering CC, it concerns me that funding is linked with standards (again). Why are our school leaders putting dollar amounts on development? Not everyone achieves developmental milestones at the same rate. Indeed, certain milestones may never be achieved, but there are other gifts that may compensate or may surpass them in terms of benefiting a community, such as kindness.

Piaget contended that the Formal Operations Stage typically began at age 12. Yet, many school leaders expect K-12 teachers to perform a developmental miracle and have most kids achieve Formal Operations in elementary school. On the flip side, many Gifted Ed programs are being cut or have been cut. I don't know of too many public schools that are offering Gifted Ed classes anymore. Yes, some offer Advanced Placement (AP). However, AP is different than Gifted Ed. How is this serving and supporting our brightest kiddos? Indeed, many drop out because they are so frustrated or bored with formalized education. I believe it would help our K-12 school leaders to go back and look through the lens of cognitive developmental psychology and further familiarize themselves with neurology when considering school reform. There will probably be another one in about 10 years. I hope that in 10 years, we'll be having a different kind of conversation.

So what would Piaget say about Common Core? Honestly, I imagine he would chuckle.



The irony of Common Core is the presumption that it's without precedent. Obviously, every teacher teaching every subject has some common purposes, and the pervasive model of classes graded by age rather than class, race, sex, interest or capacity - all or any of which have more impact on academic performance than age alone - demonstrates the absurdity of standards external to instruction.

What is worse than a common syllabus, however, is the educators' presumption that meeting such "standards" is best measured by testing. Any teacher with more than a few weeks' experience should know that you could hand out those standards to the students, presuming they're beyond grades two or three and at least some can read those standards (which, given the pedagese of many educators is a reasonable question), and students could create their own ways to show they've met those standards on time and well enough to begin the next bunch. Speed in meeting such standards could be rewarded with special projects, higher grades, rewards for teaching others, or ... time off.

What I find astounding is that so few teachers do this. When I taught graduate students in education, I'd begin with the "final exam," and ask them to finish it by the end of the course. When I taught high school students, I'd begin with the syllabus, and ask them to find shortcuts. When I taught college students, I'd hand out comparable "liberal arts" syllabi, and ask them to choose and then help me sequence what they wanted to learn. It's not rocket science - nor brain surgery - to teach. And, the more public those standards, the more transparent and collegial the methods should become.


You make excellent points Joe! I like the idea of giving the final at the beginning for high school and college levels. When I taught high school and college pre-service teachers I would ask my students to collaborate on making the final exam. My students liked being a part of the assessment process. Further, for my K-12 students with special needs I would assess via video recordings and then I would play the video recordings in student/teacher and parent/teacher meetings. I loved it when I was able to capture Ah-ha moments. Sometimes I would send home Ah-ha moments via email to share with my students' families and they love it. Then some families would send me Ah-ha moments from home. It is awesome when you can be on the same page working hand-in-hand with families.

Regarding rocket science and teaching, well, in someways, I think it is sort of like rocket science. The human mind is so complex. It is certainly an adventure to teach! I totally see your point though. I think so many K-12 Ed Leaders try to make schooling too complex and may loose sight of common sense. We need to meet each child at what Social Developmental Psychologist Lev Vygotsky proposed being Zones of Proximal Development and help each student's pace of development unfold. Scaffolding. Nurturing. Yes, I like his work too. It makes sense.

Also, it would behoove K-12 Ed Leaders to consider some of our brightest students are non-verbal in primary grades. Schools and teachers should not be docked because a child may or may not fit in the typical range of development.

Thank you again for your insights Joe! I really enjoy and learn by reading your posts on HASTAC. Have a great rest of summer! :)


It's one thing to get caught in the dialog on Common Core. Quite another, and much, much more fun, to look at what kids can do when they're asked to say how good they've been. We did that in a project creating ePortfolios a few years ago, and got stuff like Vanessa's. One of her peers, a bilingual freshman, used to write poetry on summer days in a hammock, and framed one of her poems with pictures she found online, and music from an online source, only to have her English teacher in tears because her poem was more beautiful than the text's. Another student once said of her use of technology, "I never knew I knew how to do that stuff until I taught somebody else."

So... check them out. There is a lot more in schools than tests, and a lot more evidence of student learning than test scores, even if some myopic bureaucrats miss this fairly obvious point. Enjoy it and they will, too. Fight it and it will destroy you...and...them.



Yes, I agree that it is much more fun to look at what our students can do! Teaching means learning everyday. I can tell you are a passionate teacher. Thank you very much for sharing your resources with me. Have a good evening.

Kind Regards,