Part 1: 50 States, 50 Sets of Standards v. One Country, One Set of Standards

It took a while to get around to it, but I listened to the Hamilton‘s Broadway album last month. I hesitate to say I joined the cult of Hamilton but I’ve no qualms claiming it’s the single best musical every written. Ever. In the history of the world. Forever. And I’m not gonna waste my shot. Part of what makes Hamilton so compelling is the combination of America’s founders’ optimism with the personality, music, and lens of today. There’s also the sheer adoration creator Lin-Manuel Miranda clearly has for the grand experiment that is America and our founders.

The musical 1776, to which Miranda pays homage during his show, had a revival when I was in my musical theater phase in high school and between these two shows, I often have snippets of songs pop into my head when discussions of American history come up. In both shows, disagreements between representatives from different states are made stark. Both stories go back to the concept of “these American states” and the reminder that we are living in one country comprised of 50 states.

Therein lies, I suspect, one of the issues at the heart of the Common Core debate. For the sake of this series, I’m setting aside arguments about compulsory education, sorting children by their birthdate into grades, or how we reduce learning to a number or symbol via grades. I want to wrestle with the question of if it’s better to have one or 50 sets of outcomes for students.

Claim 1: 50 states, each developing their own sets of standards, helps empower the concept of states as laboratories of democracy.

Counterclaim: 50 states, with 50 states of standards, results in silos of innovation as a lack of a shared language makes it difficult to share resources.

Claim 2: One country with one set of learning standards helps reduce teachers’ workload and frees up more time to talk about pedagogy.*

Counterclaim: One country with one set of standards isn’t a problem. The problem is CCSS.

I’m Team Claim 2. In my first “series”, I’m going to share the evidence that got me there and my thinking. Full confirmation bias confession: I haven’t found any compelling evidence to support that claim that “50 states, 50 sets of standards” is better or worse than “one country, one set of standards.” If you’re an advocate of Claim 1, I’d love to hear how you got there and what evidence helped you make up your mind.

*I’m likely going to end up clarifying and re-wording Claim 2 as I write and reflect but the gist will remain the same.

Ready for Part 2? Have at it!

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