At a filmed “Understanding Common Core” forum in Oklahoma a week ago, a passionate elementary school teacher spoke up. This is what she said.
(She speaks just after minute 50:08 to 52:00.)
“My name is Olivia Goodwin and I’m a first grade classroom teacher. You have used the phrase ‘if Common Core is implemented’ . We’ve been implementing it in our classrooms for almost two years…. so it’s not a question of if. It’s already happening.
“We’re spending our own time and money doing a lot of professional development on how to incorporate it into our classrooms because there is no state funding or professional development, or it’s really vague.
“With that being said: you’ve said that Common Core is going to be raising the bar and increasing the rigor. From my first grade standards in math, nothing has become more rigorous. The standards are exactly the same as what the past was. They’ve just taken some away.
“I’m no longer teaching my first graders about money. They don’t get any money skills in kindergarten. They no longer get money skills in first grade. They don’t get any money skills until second grade. Calendar skills are gone. Fractions are gone. Patterning is gone. That’s all moved up to a higher grade. So how is Common Core more rigorous when in my personal experience with my first grade math standards, nothing has become more rigorous? They’ve just taken stuff away.”
In response, one of the forum leaders waffles for awhile: “I can speak to what I’ve read so far… They are focused on making sure students learn… to build on knowledge over time… I’m not a teacher so I don’t know all the terminology, but it is an attempt to raise standards.”
The elementary teacher then repeats, “But how is that bar being raised if it’s taking away a portion of standards that we previously taught, but it’s not being made more rigorous?”
Then the forum speaker then says, “I don’t have an answer to your specific issue… I think it would be an issue that– what does your principal say?”
The teacher says, “We don’t have a choice. We have to teach common core.”
Some teachers, like this Oklahoma teacher and many others, say the standards are not at all rigorous. Other teachers say they are much, much too rigorous. It depends on the grade level taught, the subjects taught, and the level of Common Core exposure. So, what’s to be done?
One more story.
A very close friend of mine teaches fifth grade Common Core. She says that she isn’t so sure about liking the math, but she does like the Common Core English Language Arts.
I say, “Even if you loved both ELA and math today, what happens when the unelected D.C. groups that wrote and copyrighted the standards change them next year to something you really hate? The heart of this issue isn’t the standards themselves. It’s a battle for control of who gets to set them and who’s writing the tests and books for them.”
Come on, America. We can do better than to marry the concept of standardization and give up our constitutional responsibility to drive education locally.
We can shake this thing off our shoulders if many keep gathering courage and speaking up.