Common Core ‘Goes Way, Way Too Far’: 5 Questions with N.Y. Principal Carol Burris

By | September 27, 2014

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‘I didn’t do my due diligence’: New York high school principal and book author Carol Burris discusses why her views reversed on the Common Core State Standards.

A lot of people have strong feelings about the new Common Core State Standards that schools in more than 40 states have adopted. But Carol Burris may be unique. She’s had strong feelings for the standards and against them. And that’s just in the past two years.

Burris is principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Her 2012 book, Opening the Common Core: How to Bring ALL Students to College and Career Readiness, which she co-authored with Delia T. Garrity, was seen as a key instructional booster for the states-led Common Core across American classrooms. Its promotional materials blared: “Do you wish you could leverage the Common Core State Standards to equip all students — not just high achievers — with the higher-level thinking skills they need? You can, and this book will show you how.”

Since the book was published, Burris, who was named High School Principal of the Year in 2013, has done a 180 and is now among the most vocal critics of the standards. Her arc follows the fortunes of the standards, which in just a few years have gone from being a bipartisan success story to a punching bag for the political left and right. Facing critics who call her a flip-flopper, Burris says her now-opposition to the learning benchmarks in math and English language arts is a product of experience, exposure, and her own education.

RealClearEducation caught up with Burris last week to talk about the Common Core landscape and why and how her views have changed. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

What led you to write a book that at the time in 2012, was hailed as one of the definitive books on how Common Core could improve instruction?

I was actually writing the book before the Common Core. We had always wanted to do a sequel to Detracking for Excellence and Equity because readers of that book said they wanted more. As we were writing the book, the Common Core standards came out. Essentially, we looked to find standards that would match with what we were already writing — we would think of different topics and lessons that we had, and then we would look in the standards to see if there was a match, and we did find some standards that matched both lessons.

At the time, we had a superficial view of the standards. The high school math standards, for example, had not come out yet. A lot of our knowledge of the standards at the time was what we read about the standards, and it all just seemed to make some sense.

How have your views changed since you wrote Opening Common Core in 2012?

I think they’ve dramatically changed. As the Common Core rolled out in New York, my first impression was that some of the problems were implementation problems. Because…

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