In the Winter issue of American Educator , the Editors discuss Common Core Curriculum, maintaining the benefits are many. The first bulleted benefit is that "teachers need not guess what will be on assessments; if they teach the curriculum, their students will be prepared." Ideally, this would be true, if the course work was successfully taught and successfully evaluated. Unfortunately, the evaluation of student work can be labor intensive and very time consuming, one evaluative method different from another. As a high school English teacher of over 30 years, who was probably more devoted to my career than my personal life, I know the toll that such scrutiny of student work can take. I also know that many of my colleagues in my department and others with families of their own to raise did not maintain the same level of intensity and standards as I did. I gave multiple choice Scantron graded tests infrequently. My usual mode of evaluation was short answer explanations, which I created and evaluated, devoting entire weekends to do so. Usually, some of the items on the test or quiz was geared toward high level thinking. I was concerned with inference and comprehension, as much as with specific plot detail. It would help me determine who fudged the reading, and for take home assignments it helped me determine who copied mindlessly from classmates.
Outside of the classroom, I often watched students borrow each other's papers and copy directly. I know that this type of cheating was supported by teachers who did not scrutinize their students' work. My evenings were also spent evaluating and correcting students' work. I devoted more energy to perfecting my teaching than to maintaining my personal relationship to my significant other. I don't expect this type of sacrifice from teachers. But without it, it is difficult to assess whether one has successfully communicated the content and skills necessary for any curriculum. But with a common core curriculum, it would be easier to determine whether one teacher's methodology is better suited to students at a specific school than his or her colleagues. And this could be shared and duplicated.
Other points made in the article are significant, and certainly bear consideration. Specifically, "Teacher preparation programs ensure that candidates have mastered the curriculum, and ways to teach it, before they become teachers." During my tenure, I was surrounded by teachers in my department, some of whom taught me about the content I was commissioned to teach, and some who learned from me. But often, there were those with very limited experience and background in literature, composition, and grammar, and these few were weak links seemed not to care that they didn't an adequate background, that they did not belong in the classroom. I always wondered where they received their degrees and how meaningless their certification was, other than allowing them to collect a paycheck. A common core curriculum might have forced these teachers to rise to the level of their colleagues with a substantial background in the content and a equally successful methodology for delivering that content to their students.