Parents, to the #CommonCore Barricades

I find I have to be more and more careful when talking with local parents in my community about education policy questions. A few weeks back, I got into a long an drawn out fight on how horrible state tests here in New Jersey were, and how the only real measure of a student’s performance were their classroom grades. When I pointed out grades can be subjective and an A in my town could be very different from an A in nearby Trenton (at least in terms of whether a high school A equated college-level ability) I was shunned by many of the group.

So it should come as no surprise when I saw what I saw being distributed in our local public library. For the record, I live in West Windsor, NJ. Our regional school district serves just under 10,000 kids, with a per-pupil expenditure of more than $17,000 per. It is one of those districts that is regularly ranked very high compared to others in the states. According to the most recent demographic data, a third of the student population is white, with 7 percent African America, and 5 percent Hispanic. The majority of students are Asian American, either Indian or Chinese. This is also a community where nearly four in 10 residents are foreign born.

To put it mildly, it is a high-achieving district and parents have sky-high expectations for their kids. At Back to School night last year, I watched as parents began lining up in front of a special education teacher, figuring she was yet another service their child should have access to, without knowing what special education really was.

But back to the local library. It is a popular place, as local public libraries should be. In the lobby, you can find stacks of shiny bookmarks for any parent to pick up.


And then it offers its reasoning. Each point offering enough inconsistencies to drive a fact-checking big rig right through.

“Because Common Core …

  • is ILLEGAL! Under the U.S. Constitution, education falls under the domain of the States, NOT the Federal Government
  • Causes suspicion because children are not allowed to take home worksheets, and teachers are not allowed to discuss what is being read in class.
  • Has never been tested prior to implementation.
  • Means lower academic standards due to inadequate math and literature standards.
  • Excessive testing and homework causes TREMENDOUS STRESS TO OUR CHILDREN, resulting in psychological issues, lower self-confidence and lack of creativity.
  • Hinders individualism and success due to its “one size fits all” approach.
  • Is an invasion of student and family privacy laws, utilizing Data Mining.
  • Standards are determined and are under copyright of private groups that does NOT include educational professionals.”

If you have a fear or worry about something that goes bump in the educational night, this group has a reason to back them for you? Federal encroachment? Check. Anti-teacher. Check. Lower standards. Check. Testing stressing your kids? Check. Hinders success and creativity? Check. Data privacy? Check. Corporate takeover of education? Check.

Now if we wanted to put any of these charges through a fact checker like they use on political candidates, we’d find that they don’t hold water. But that doesn’t mean much. The term “Common Core” is toxic. And those organizing against the standards know that SO they can use the fear and hatred for Common Core to turn it into whatever devil they want it to be.

Over the weekend, Alexander Russo was asking on Twitter about the PDK survey results and whether those outcomes are outliers or truly represent the shifting feelings of the American people. And the answer is yes to both questions. It does indeed represent public feeling toward the brand “Common Core,” and whatever it represents to the individual. For most, Common Core means high-stakes tests. For others, it is anti-teacher. But for very few, does “Common Core” actually mean the learning standards we expect every student to master each academic year.

Now if you asked the same questions, without using the dreaded Common Core name, and instead talked about teaching and learning standards and expectations, you’d get a MUCH different reaction. You might even find some appreciation for efforts to ensure that a public school education has value, regardless of the state or zip code where it is offered.

Sadly, I won’t be joining the Facebook group that is asking my to man the barricades and fight against the horrible beast known as Common Core. You see, I believe we should have learning standards. I believe we should hold our states and districts and schools accountable for what should be taught. I believe teachers and parents should have a clear understanding of what should be taught and what a student should be able to do each school year. And I believe in Common Core.

Maybe I need to make some bookmarks of my own. Or hats and t-shirts, everyone loves swag, even if it is pro-Common Core …

5 thoughts on “Parents, to the #CommonCore Barricades

  1. I’ll stick with my own reason for not liking Common Core: the K-2 standards are not developmentally appropriate. I generally run screaming from the folks who maintain that it’s all a plot to indoctrinate our children into Islam and ensure that they’ll never be able to read The Constitution because, No Cursive – but just because you can poke holes in all of your reasons (and I can as well, FWIW) doesn’t mean that they’re all fine and dandy.

    I don’t have a problem with *standards,* and there are many reasonable parents and teachers out there who don’t either – but I don’t think that these are the best we can do, or that they’re right for kids (especially the younger set) across the board. Come up with realistic standards that match what we know about what children best learn when and how, and don’t foist them, untested, on an entire generation of American children, and you might actually find that more parents and teachers are in favor of *standards* than are in favor of Common Core.

    Just sayin’.

    • A reasoned position, and one I can greatly appreciate. I only wish there were more parents who would look at it from that perspective. I’ll give you there are solid reasons to question Common Core. But as soon as someone says they are opposed to standards because of the high-stakes tests, a little part of me dies inside.

      • I’m not thrilled about the tests, either – but I do separate standards, curriculum, and testing – while the testing requirement is part of the same basic package as the standards (whether CCSS or a “knockoff”), I recognize that they’re separate issues. As for the tests, if we’re testing primarily to glean information about how well students are learning, about whether the standards are in fact appropriate, about whether we’re meeting the needs of all students, then I’m fine with that – but again, that’s not how they’re being used, and I have big problems with them being used punitively, to “rate” teachers (which is really not what they’re designed for). When “cut scores” can be set AFTER the tests are taken and the data gathered, and manipulated so that “proficient” may or may not even be relevant, something is very very wrong.

        I’m not convinced that these standards are an improvement across the board, either; while many states did indeed have weak standards and expectations, CCSS was put together and rolled out without regard for states or districts that *did* already have high (and possibly more realistic, especially in the early grades) standards, and without regard for what we know about Early Childhood and neurodevelopment, not to mention what we are learning day by day about the effects of poverty on young children and brain development. The standards were thrown together without the necessary research, put into policy without so much as a field test, and are being implemented with rising scores as the end goal, as if that’s the whole point of US public education – what a horribly reductionist view of childhood.

        I was very much blindsided by my younger child’s experience, especially in 3rd grade, as she was being asked to do things she was simply not developmentally ready for and wasn’t for another year or two – and she was hardly the only child in her class or school whose parents were similarly unpleasantly surprised. Honestly, that was my wakeup call: watching a previously bubbly cheerful 8YO falling apart over the course of a school year until she was crying on a daily basis and rarely smiling – and this is a kid whose mom *does* understand the math behind her Common Core math assignments and *could* help her with it without a workshop LOL – left me very much jaded as to the whole package. I saw her “catch up” VERY easily the next year (and this is also a kid who is very naturally inclined to math, although for quite some time she had stopped believing she was good at it), simply because she was a year older and really ready for it.

        So: standards, OK – just not THESE standards. Testing: OK, depending on how disruptive the testing is to the school, how much time and money are being spent on it, and how the tests are being used. I can think of myriad ways to improve the standards, the implementation OF the standards, and the testing – but right now those things are driving not just curricular decisions where I live but also decisions on what money is spent on: testing, tech, broadband infrastructure for testing, more tech for testing, but not on teachers or on arts, not on badly-needed renovations or new buildings in a growing school system, and class sizes are increasing while we “find” money for yet another few thousand Chromebooks. I think this alone is an indication that US education policy has gone off the rails, when our priorities shift away from children and towards Hard Results As Measured By Test Scores.

        Aaaand now I’m blathering – will back away for now. Thanks for hearing me out. 🙂

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  3. I recognized that the assessments my third grade grandson was having to take on a weekly basis were developmentally inappropriate before I read the first blog or news article about common core. My grandson has learned to hate reading, thanks to being forced to figure out the author’s point of view, the author’s purpose, and the main idea, all of which might not be so difficult if the questions were not phrased so that they are so hard to understand. Not to mention that the passages are boring and long, and have words that are not familiar to a normal third grade student. Also, many of the answer choices have two of four that are so close that sometime I can’t figure out the answer —- and I was a reading teacher. I have seen my grandson cry almost daily and say that he is just stupid. I tutor him three times a week, and I wonder how the students who live in poverty and don’t have background experiences, and those who don’t have anyone at home who can help, are faring. It just makes me wonder what will come next for our children in public education.

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