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.
The headline? CALLING ALL MOMS & DADS — PLEASE JOIN IN OUR FIGHT & CHOOSE TO REFUSE COMMON CORE
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 …