Teachers and Common Core

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Common Core State Standards

Virginia has added Common Core State Standards (CCSS) content to its Standards of Learning (SOL), and in the case of Virginia’s math standards, the writers of CCSS actually copied some of Virginia’s math standards.

Article 7 in the series on Common Core

by Celeste Busby

As one might imagine, a number of teacher opinions exist about Common Core (CC), because in states that have poor standards, Common Core is seen as an improvement. But in other states, some teachers are taking a stance against it, while other teachers are afraid to talk about it for fear of losing their jobs.

In Virginia, teachers likely have not really been aware of it, because national news has stated many times that Virginia was one of the states that opted out. Virginians, in general, don’t believe that Virginia has CC. However, Virginia has added Common Core State Standards (CCSS) content to its Standards of Learning (SOL), and in the case of Virginia’s math standards, the writers of CCSS actually copied some of Virginia’s math standards.

Only a few states like Kentucky and New York that were early to implement it have actually had CCSS for two full years, so there was little known about the results of this questionable experiment on our children until very recently. New York now wants a three-year moratorium on CCSS to assess the methods, because the test results were so poor. Only 31 percent of the students in grades three to eight passed the math and reading tests.

To be fair, at least one teacher in New York speaks out for Common Core.  In contrast, in January, the board of the New York State United Teachers union, one of the largest groups of educators in the U.S., withdrew its support for the CC Standards.  New York parents and teachers are concerned that children in lower grades are pushed too quickly, while top students in math in the upper grades are not educated far enough, since there is no calculus.

In Seattle, 150 teachers were on the march, in June, against CC. They feel that CC “puts too much focus on standardized testing and restricts what students can learn.” Teacher Tom O’Kelley stated, CC “wasn’t made by teachers and child development experts. It’s not appropriate.

Teachers resign because of Common Core

Some teachers across our country have even left their education careers behind, because of CC. Darla Dawald, at Patriot Action Network, recently shared two teacher’s stories of resignation.  ( First, was one from the TheBlaze: 20-year-plus- veteran teacher, Susan Sluyter, from Massachusetts, states in her resignation letter, “In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children.”

The second resignation letter from Social Studies Department Leader Gerald Coon, of New York, states, “STEM rules the day and ‘data driven’ education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing, and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified, so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled . . . . A long train of failures has brought us to this unfortunate pass. In their pursuit of Federal tax dollars, our legislators have failed us by selling children to private industries such as Pearson Education.“

Decades of education reform and testing

For decades, education reform has revolved around Outcome-Based Education (OBE), and for those same decades, student performance has remained flat-lined, and the increases in money and staff have not solved the problems. Often the same old education-reform methods that have not worked in the past have been renamed in later decades. Sometimes we just never learn!

Then, along came “No Child Left Behind,” with its emphasis on standards and statewide standardized testing for schools that receive federal funding. Schools and teachers are to be held accountable, if students don’t make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)—adequate improvement from one year to the next.

In a conversation with an English teacher, some months ago, at a forum on Virginia’s SOL, I was advised of the concern for all the informational text that CC requires and the additional concern for the impact on students needing remedial reading.

Of course, at that forum there were big concerns about having to teach to the SOL tests and the unbelievable stress put on both students and teachers at testing time.   One teacher told me that she even transferred to teaching a lower grade level in order to avoid dealing with the SOL testing stress. Fortunately, the Virginia General Assembly has reduced the number of tests during its past session. So, we can be thankful for small changes.

Virginians go to the State Board of Education

A number of education advocates—parents, grandparents, teachers, a college professor, even a school administrator—went before the Virginia Board of Education (BOE) in June with their concerns about the problems with math instruction in Virginia’s public schools. Members of the Board listened intently, as the advocates told how parents and at least one school district have had to hire tutors for their children, because math is being taught in a convoluted way by spiral method rather than in a traditional way with mastery method.

Apparently, elementary students learn math that way and then in middle school have to re-learn the more traditional way. Also, students are taught partial quotient division and partial product multiplication that is confusing and takes many more steps than traditional division or multiplication. Crazy! Why not learn traditional math skills and facts well in the first place?

At that meeting with the BOE, we heard that parents are not able to help their children with learning math, because it is so different from the traditional math that they learned. We also learned about a child that had “disconnected” and had decided that she just couldn’t do math—as is being taught in public schools. However, with proper teaching methods at a private school, a positive change occurred for that child when it came to learning math.

Teachers want to be good teachers

Some teachers say they are little more than script readers, “with pressure to ‘teach to the test’ to take all individuality out of their craft.”  NOTE: Teacher performance is measured by how closely a teacher adheres to the copyrighted CC Standards, so there is little room for creativity.

Most teachers would prefer to use a little creativity with their teaching methods and be able to impart knowledge of a subject to their students, instead of teaching to the test as is necessary with CC. If students don’t pass the tests, the teachers and the schools are naturally held accountable.

But, are they held accountable or are they just berated? If they were truly accountable, they would have permission to be creative and to foster future artists, musicians, engineers, doctors, football players, shopkeepers and much more.   Teachers know that not all children learn in the same way, and that one-size-doesn’t-fit-all in education. Some might even look back to the teaching methods of the Greatest Generation, if they were allowed.

CC has other rules, emphasizing group consensus and progressive indoctrination, and other things like sexuality. It does not emphasize individual student responsibility and productivity. That’s why you will see, as has also been the case with OBE, a classroom of desks sitting in a circle or face to face, instead of in rows. It’s for ease of gathering a group consensus on what is being learned. (A consensus doesn’t necessarily mean that what was decide in the group is the correct answer or idea. It just means the group agrees on the meaning—right or wrong.)

In Article 6 of this series, civil rights activist Ernie White spoke of a consensus circle when he observed a CC reading session.  The teacher stood in the corner. She told him that her job was to do little more than mediate the class and to make sure that each child participated. What a shame to reduce teachers who have spent years of time and money to obtain their teaching credentials to being “mediators.”

Parents and teachers need to take a stand against unproven, failed teaching methods and federal government interference in our schools. Teachers, especially, need to push to get rid of these crazy methods of CC. School boards need to stop accepting federal funding, in order to return control to the local school districts. For sure, something needs to give in education in our public schools. So far, it looks like it’s been our kids.

Also, Congress needs to prevent federal funds from being spent on any kind of national standards in the future. Bills have been introduced to that effect in the U.S. House of Representatives, so let’s see how far they go.

Celeste Busby’s Series can be found here.


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