In a featured presentation at the National Association of School Psychologists, held in New Orleans last month, Dr. Alan Coulter helped attendees see the misconceptions about the national furor over Common Core, and the role for psychology in helping children who may be left behind in all the various debate.
Coulter is Director for Education Initiatives at the Human Development Center, LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans (LSUHSC), Director of the APA-accredited School Psychology Internship, and the Principal Lead for the TIERS Group. TIERS is Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students.
“The level of misunderstanding by the public of the issues related to Common Core State Standards,” Dr. Coulter explained to the Times, “surpasses almost any other issues –even the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist.”
“The federal government did not invent the Common Core State Standards,” he said, despite the fact that many believe this. Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, were developed by The National Governors Association and the National Association of Council of Chief State School Officers, he said. “They developed the CCSS in response to a request of the majority of governors, including Governor Bobby Jindal,” Coulter noted.
“The federal government did not mandate the Common Core. States had options and 45 states simply adopted CCSS,” he said.
A third common misunderstanding is the belief that Common Core is a curriculum. “The CCSS is not curriculum,” explained Coulter. No curriculum materials were mandated by the federal government. There is no national curriculum.”
Panel presenters at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) conference also pointed to a fourth misunderstanding––The federal government did not mandate any specific achievement measure. Rather, the federal government funded two efforts by consortia of states to develop a measure of achievement aligned to CCSS, explained Dr. Coulter.
The invited presentation titled, “Bracing for the Common Core Crash: Preventing More Children Left Behind,” included co-presenters Mark R. Shinn, PhD, from National-Louis University, Kimberly Gibbons, from St. Croix River Education District, Minneapolis, MN, Dr. Michelle Shinn, Principal & Executive Director for Student Services, Lake Forest, IL, and Dr. Robert H. Pasternack, former Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education.
Dr. Coulter said, “This event was quite an honor for me and my colleagues.” The national association rarely if ever invites a panel for two years in a row, and this was Coulter’s and his colleagues’ third presentation in as many years. It appears likely that the five will be invited back again.
The panel focused on how Common Core could inadvertently set conditions that could leave more students behind, and pointed out that school psychologists must be aware of risks and ensure advocacy for research-based practices, noted the program authors.
Dr. Coulter is also concerned with assessments. “My issue was one of the need for comparable assessments across states as measures of equitable accountability for results and use of public funds,” Coulter explained. “When 45 states had adopted one of the two newly developed measures, there was a chance of having a broad representation of state performance.”
“However,” he said, “given the growing hysteria about CCSS in states, some had withdrawn to develop their own state specific measures. The result will be a ‘Tower of Babel’ of accountability test scores,” he explained.
“It’s a pity that the politics of hysterical contagion have overridden rational decision-making about responsible accountability,” he said. He explained that Psychology has the expertise and the technology to ensure equitable and meaningful accountability of public school to the public. But, he also feels that Psychology continues to be largely unsuccessful in helping to shape public support for the use of this expertise.
Dr. Coulter said the conference was well attended and reviewed. “The National Association of School Psychologists meeting in New Orleans was one of the organization’s most attended annual meetings. I heard repeated compliments about what a hospitable environment NOLA was for such a meeting. Almost every session I attended, was packed with psychologists interested in expanding their knowledge and skills.”
Dr. Jim Tucker (L), McKee Chair of Excellence at the School of Education, U. of Tennessee, with Dr. Alan Coulter, Director for Education Initiatives at the Human Development Center, LSU Health Sciences Center, at the recent National Association of School Psychologists last month in New Orleans. (Courtesy photo)