Connecting the Dots: If Common Core’s Bad, Why Does It Sound So Good?   Leave a comment

Some teachers really love Common Core.  They are the ones who have taught the subjects that actually have raised standards.  They view anyone who’s against Common Core as the Grinch coming to steal Christmas away.

But the teachers who don’t like Common Core remain in the spiral of silence, afraid to speak up in fear of losing their jobs or being seen as odd in an ocean of Common Core accepters, toleraters, or promoters.

Then there are teachers like me and a few others who can’t seem to be shut up.

There are definitely extremes on this issue.

I’m saying things like:

The standards aren’t high enough in math. The CCSS standards don’t allow enough classic literature, and don’t have any amendment clause (not Utah’s current Core but the federal CCSS standards, have no amendability).

But current standards, ultimately, are irrelevant because they’re going to be replaced by the federal standards once teachers figure out that in order to get high student scores and merit pay, they have to teach to the test, and the test is based on the federal standards, not on the Utah Common Core.  (The centralized testing system will be implemented by 2015).

On one hand, if you visit the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) website, the official Common Core website, or sites for any Common Core or nationalized-education promoting entity (such as the U.S. Department of Education, the CSSSO, NGA, Bill and Melinda Gates, Achieve, WestEd, or the Council on Foreign Relations sites, you will hear beautiful words about how free, educationally sound, and positive Common Core is, both educationally and politically.  On the other hand, if you read my research, Alisa Ellis’ research (http://commoncorefacts.blogspot.com) or the research of any not-federally-funded think tank, such as Heritage Foundation or Pioneer Institute, you’ll hear a very different song from the one the Common Core is singing.

If Common Core’s so good, why am I calling it bad?  What is wrong with me?  Am I paid by some fanatical anti-government group? Am I being fed propaganda by special interest groups?  Who am I to say these things?  Am I really just a mom and a teacher who cares about freedom of education that much?

Yes, indeed, I am.

So, I’ve realized that I need to simplify and slow down and explain things from the beginning, so that anyone can understand how I arrived at these conclusions, and what possessed me to sign the http://utahnsagainstcommoncore.com petition at all.

I have only been researching Common Core for a few weeks.  I started in March.  It’s April.  I didn’t know ANYTHING in February. It’s not rocket science.  You just have to connect the dots.

When my friend sent me the link to a local Heber school board meeting to watch, I saw two women who I’d never seen before, although they live only blocks away from my house.  One was a teacher, Renee Braddy.  One was a mother of seven, Alisa Ellis.  They gave a presentation about their concerns about Common Core.  They’d been doing research.  http://youtu.be/Mk0D16mNbp4 As soon as I saw their presentation I asked my friend to give me their contact information (she knew them).  I needed to know more for myself.

I started studying intensely.  I started to write emails and to ask questions of local and state school board members, teachers, administrators, legislators, senators, think tank writers, and students who were trying out Common Core right now.  The more I learned, the more I needed to know and the more I realized how little I, or any teacher or regular citizen, knew about it.

I became a little obsessed.  I stayed up later and got up earlier to study and to write.  My laundry piled up worse than it usually does.  I quit baking.  Okay, it’s been three weeks, and I am still no less obsessed.  I feel compelled to share what I am learning because it is so important.

I found out that Utah had joined the Common Core in 2009 in order to qualify for more points to get more eligible to win a federal grant.  Utah didn’t win it, but in the application process for the grant, we’d gotten hooked.  We hadn’t done a legal analysis.  We hadn’t done a cost analysis.  We hadn’t had a public vote.  We hadn’t had a legislative discussion.  Teachers and administrators weren’t asked to give input until much later.  We just plunged in.

This was nuts by anybody’s definition.  The standards hadn’t even been written yet, nor the test that we’d just agreed to change our entire educational system to abide by.  We were like gamblers in Vegas, hoping for a win.  So very foolish of us.

I’m not pointing fingers.  We all get information overload, and grant applications are huge, thick, dense forests of words that take extreme focus, legal teams or grant professionals to decipher. Maybe the three who signed:  Governor Herbert, Superintendent Larry Shumway, and School Board Member Debra Roberts, simply didn’t understand when they signed the whole State up (teachers, students, taxpayers– doesn’t that cover every soul in Utah?) –Maybe they had no idea of the vast implementation work ahead, or the giving away of Utah’s ability to set her own standards, or the budget-thunking gravity of Common Core and its testing arm, which they’d signed up for in that grant application.  Let’s give all three of them the benefit of the doubt.

But by now, haven’t they each been pestered by teachers, taxpayers, parents and citizens –including me– sufficiently that they must now realize it’s high time to shift into reverse?

Keep Thomas Jefferson’s wisdom in mind:

“It is important to strengthen the State governments; and as this cannot be done by any change in the Federal Constitution (for the preservation of that is all we need contend for), it must be done by the States themselves, erecting such barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the General Government. The only barrier in their power is a wise government. A weak one will lose ground in every contest.” –Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791.

Posted April 19, 2012 by Christel Swasey in Uncategorized

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