I do not think this means, what you think it means.

I am a pretty smart cookie. I always did well in school. Graduated with a 3.5 GPA and from K-12 got primarily A’s and B’s. I have always been an advanced reader, finishing my 1st Grade year reading at a 6th Grade level. Now, I am not saying that to brag but to make a point. Despite all of that, and an IQ hovering around 120, I was so woefully unprepared for college it is not even funny. Though I always loved lit and writing classes, and almost always received A’s, I was nowhere near prepared to do college level analysis and writing after graduating high school. I was lucky. I managed to pick up all the skills I was lacking and adapt to college life. Many do not.

I was an assistant to a professor in college. I saw the work of incoming students. Sad to say, incoming freshman weren’t getting better. They were getting worse. I have known graduates who could not write a complete sentence, did not know that Pearl Harbor was more than just a Ben Affleck movie, and could not add or subtract without using their fingers. I will admit, I am guilty of the last one.

Once upon a time the United States was number one in education; now that honor belongs to South Korea. Sadly, we don’t even fall into the top ten. In an effort to boost our nation’s education, which will help make us a stronger global competitor, a thing called Common Core has been enacted in the majority of the states. Naturally, it has its opponents. As per usual these opponents lead the charge with half-truths or outright lies to bolster fear and gain more supporters. Fact is, there is no logical reason to oppose Common Core education.

First of all, unlike many opponents claim, Common Core (CC) is not a curriculum. It is simply a set of standards to be met. Well, what does that mean exactly? It means that while CC sets the standard, teachers and districts still set the curriculum. For example, my son is going to be in the second grade. According to CC’s literary guidelines, by the end of the year my son should be able to: read and comprehend literature, including stories and poetry, in the grades 2–3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. All CC does is tell schools that by the end of 2nd grade my son should not only be able to read but also understand texts meant for 2nd or 3rd graders. His teacher, school, and district will decide how to make sure that goal is met. Nowhere in the CC does it ever tell a teacher how they have to teach. Unfortunately, many are misled to believe otherwise.

Secondly, opponents take the fact that CC focuses more on critical thinking and less rote learning as dictating teaching methods. I find this objection to be hysterical. Partly because one of the objections is that CC is an indoctrination from the Federal level. Yes, teaching kids to think critically—giving them the skills to make up their own minds and form their own opinions—is indoctrination. Telling kids exactly what they have to remember—how they have to think—is not. Right. I also have this ocean front property in NW Iowa that I would like to sell you.

The CC website does nothing but give educators an idea as to where kids should be at the completion of a grade. Now, Iowa’s Literacy Standard does give examples of texts but does not, in any way, insist that these texts must be used. But, there are probably those who consider it offensive that one of the example texts is “The Black Stallion.” It’s not like I ever read that in grade school. How dare we require our graduating youth to: Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses)? My goodness, requiring teens to understand how their government works and how the law is applied is just un-American. And even suggesting that one of the texts applicable to seniors is Common Sense by Thomas Paine is just plain indoctrination and socialism. I mean, it’s not like the pamphlet was vital to our Revolution or anything. (Paine made the argument for self-government in January of 1776. Many historians believe that this helped gain support for the Revolution. It also laid the groundwork for the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.)

I get it. Federal government is bad. It shouldn’t tell us what to do. The states should decide what to teach. Except, CC was created, in part, by the National Governors Association. From the very beginning states were involved. States get to decide to follow the standards or not. They get to decide how to teach the standards, should they decide to follow them. They get to tweak the standards as they see fit. For example, while not included in the CC, Iowa’s literary standard involves being able to successfully debate a topic. Minnesota was free to make the decision to implement the literary standards while not implementing the math standards. No state is penalized for not following the CC 100%.

A few opponents claim that CC is a broad federal overreach. That the Federal government is using grant money as a bribe to implement these changes and cutting funding to states who don’t choose to implement CC. Not true. Yes, the competitive Race to the Top grants requires states to adopt standards. But what the detractors fail to mention is that states could choose to adopt CC or a different career and college readiness curriculum. So, basically, the only requirement is that you make sure all of your student’s graduate High School ready for the real world. What does amount to the Federal government using grant money as a bribe is No Child Left Behind. You know, the federal law that restricts funding for schools who perform poorly on yearly aptitude tests. I am certain that is the law you are thinking of. .

Many point to CC as being a failure already since the states of New York and Georgia have already begun testing on CC and both states experienced a significant drop in test scores as a result. Of course, few seem to realize that this was expected. See, when you test high school students who began their education under NCLB and switch to something like CC, which requires more from the students, these students are not going to score as well on the tests. There are a number of reasons for that. First, CC is based on the principal that a good foundation in knowing and understanding concepts is essential for education. Kids taking the tests now, who are in high school, have not had this foundational background. Instead, they had an education system based around arbitrary scores on a test. A test states were allowed to write. Many of these states, lowered the standards of these tests to make it appear as if the students knew more than they did. Students are scoring lower because the tests are harder. They needed to be harder. In a few years, when elementary and middle school students grow to take these high school tests the scores will be more reflective of how CC works.

The problem now is that many of these kids began with a dumbed down overly simplistic form of education and are now required to undergo a more intense education. You know, one that actually teaches them stuff. Just stop and think for a moment. If our education system was fine, if our students were learning what they should be learning, the harder tests shouldn’t have been a problem. This is stuff they should already know. Stuff kids all around the world already know. We have fallen behind and it is time to catch up. After NCLB, Missouri’s test scores improved but they admitted that they lowered standards. What does this teach our children? That the test is so important we will make it easier so you can pass instead of actually teaching you what you need to know.

Some have accused the CC to be a form of data mining. Here’s the thing, the data is already being collected and has been collected for a while. See, this is another thing NCLB did. Schools needed to report test scores, progress reports, and teacher qualifications. These things impacted school funding. The school, itself, was made responsible for how an individual child performed on a test. Many have accused CC of being a one size fits all approach, yet Iowa guidelines clearly give plenty of flexibility regarding differently abled students. Students who are disabled in some way are not held to the exact same requirements as an average child. Teachers are allowed to read test questions and communicate with disabled students during testing as is most beneficial to the child’s individual needs. CC does not eliminate or effect the Individualized Education Plan. Once again, you must be thinking of NCLB.

No Child Left Behind, an actual law whereas Common Core is just a suggestion, mandated that all students be proficient at grade level. That was a one size fits all approach if there ever was one. The reason I say that is because by all students they really meant all students. I was a TA in a room for level 3 special education. For those not familiar with the codification, that means my students were severely to profoundly mentally disabled. The average mental age of my students was around 2 years of age though the average physical age was around 15. Despite this, my students were required, by law, to be taught grade level math, science and reading. That means we were required to essentially teach a 2yo, eighth grade level science. More importantly, if such students failed to perform funding to the schools was cut. So if you want to talk about a stupid, one size fits all, education program it should be this one. NCLB left no room for Special Education to be Special Education. Students in Special Ed have to take the same tests, the same way, in the same amount of time as average children. Teachers were not allowed to read questions out loud to blind students nor give differently abled students the help they needed to complete the tests. Common Core corrects this grossly discriminatory mistake. NCLB assumed that 100% proficiency could be attained because all students had the capability of being proficient. What NCLB failed to realize was that if this is true then there would be no need for Special Education. I cannot speak for all the states because I have only read the requirements for mine, but Iowa’s Common Core Standards address and fix this problem that NCLB left behind.

Those who care about their child’s education and the fate of this nation should support Common Core. The reason? Because a child going to school in rural Iowa should have the same education as a child in Manhattan. Now, I am not saying all the same opportunities (Iowa students would have a hard time taking AP courses through Columbia), nor the same technology (no way is a school in NW Iowa going to have cable internet) but what each child should have is a basic understanding of core principles. Right now, this is not happening. Though we compare states to education every year we are not giving an accurate picture because none of the standards are the same. If standards are different across state lines, county lines or district lines how do we know which schools are really performing and which ones are not? I actually, figured this out once. If I had gone to school in a nearby district I would have graduated High School with a 3.8 GPA. But it wouldn’t have been because I learned more. It would have been because the grading scale was more lenient. All those 90%s that I had received that were B’s in my High School were A’s in the other one. I still got the same percentage, learned the same amount…yet in one district I got a better grade.

We have become a global society. In order for the US to compete globally for future generations our education system must change. Right now, among 34 industrialized nations, we are 14th in literacy, 17th in science and 25th in math. Where we once had the number one spot in the world with the percentage of young people with degrees we are now number 10. Common Core standards are based on the standards of other nations. Thus, they are harder. As it sits Poland outperforms the US in education. Thus, turning all those ‘dumb Pollack’ jokes into ‘dumb American’ jokes. Doesn’t feel so hot, does it? Common Core challenges our students. It makes them work harder and gives them the potential to learn what they need to compete in a global market. There is nothing evil about making our children work harder in school. In fact, it benefits them in the long run as they will be able to find better jobs. This, in turn, helps our economy. Plus, we really should want to be number 1 again.

The loudest argument being indoctrination I feel the need to cover it again. In no way is CC indoctrination. Let me say that again, CC IS NOT INDOCTRIATION. How do I know that? Because CC teaches kids to think critically. You can’t indoctrinate the youth and teach them to think for themselves. Doesn’t work. Soviet Russia had an indoctrination form of education. There, students were not only told what they should know (much of it being outright lies) but also what they should think about what they should know. CC does not tell you what to think it teaches you how. Big difference. Indoctrination would be more like requiring Science classes around the nation to teach that evolution is merely a theory made up by atheist scientists and that God really created the earth in just 7, 24 hour, days. Yeah, see what I did there. If CC dictated what was to be taught and how it was to be taught the opponents would have a point. As it stands, they do not. CC is nothing more than a set of standards saying a child should be able to do this by the end of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. Grade. How that goal is met is left entirely up to the states, districts and individual teachers. It sets a national standard that evens the playing field of education across the 50 states. It helps to guarantee that Iowa can be just as competitive as New York when it comes to education. It gives all children the opportunity for the same education as everyone else. What the hell is wrong with that?

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21 thoughts on “I do not think this means, what you think it means.

  1. christine merritt says:

    You are woefully under educated regarding the real issues with CC.

    • Then, please, enlighten me. I have done my research and the article is the conclusions I have made based on the evidence that I have found. If I have missed something, please point me in the right direction. Don’t just tell me I am wrong and leave the conversation. That doesn’t help me. If I am wrong I will accept that but please show me where I am wrong, why I am wrong, and point me to sources that prove (or even indicate slightly) that I am wrong.

      • Christine Merritt says:

        Rachel: Your blog presents an overly sanitized stripped down version of what CC should be. Sadly, this isn’t even close to the monster that has shown up in backpacks of children across the country.Your piece seemed to contain all of the talking points, you just need to follow through with your research a bit further. Think like a corporate executive of inBloom, Pearson Publishing, or Gates and you’ll find the truth.Wish I could debate this with you further but the fight is on in NY and we are very busy saving our kids from we believe to be an unconstitutional, illegal, and disdainful attack on our civil liberties.Dig deeper Rachel, and it will come.. Start here:.http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Ed/20131024/

      • Christine Merritt says:

        Rachel: Imagine you are a freshman in High School. This assignment gets placed on your desk. Everyone around you gets one as well. Now, imagine you are Jewish. .http://poorrichardsnews.com/post/48049380443/common-core-writing-assignment-think-like-a

      • The thing that gets me is that the examples that are always given to me are presented like they are horrid and new. In the 1970’s my mother was made to debate IN FAVOR of slavery. In the mid-1990’s my school did a unit on WWII. During this unit all students were given ‘passports’ that they had to carry around. Some had yellow dots on them and some had red dots on them. The red dots had more privileges and freedoms then the yellow dots…in essence the kids with the yellow dots were the Jews. It was a horrible experiment that went bad very fast, and was never tried again (big giant duh, there). In teaching a child to debate an issue it has always been common to ask students to defend some of history’s most vile moments (like my mother and slavery). Was the assignment worded poorly, yes. Is the general premise of the assignments content wrong, not really. It is easy to come up with arguments against Nazi Germany, too easy, but to argue FOR the Reich…that takes talent, and a lot of hard work. Any way, assignments like this are not new, uncommon, or a direct result of CC. It has been like this for a very long while.

      • Christine Merritt says:

        Care to join us? Could shed some light on the problems that we are up against. NYS-StateConferenceCallFlier Nov 12.pdf · version 1

      • Ms. Merritt, I am currently disseminating the information you have provided me and I believe I have found out where the issue truly lies. http://www.corestandards.org/ This link will direct you to the program I address in the article, the standards that were researched and adopted, in part, by the National Governor’s Association. This is what is promoted by the Department of Education and related to the Race to the Top grants. This link: http://commoncore.org/our-story takes you to a site that is curriculum…but it is not funded, promoted, or supported by the federal government. NY seems to have adopted this curriculum, which is called common core, but is NOT the Common Core program that is supported by the federal government. It appears as though they are two different things but have the same name. CCSSI (common core state standards initiative) is the program that is assumed to be at fault, and the program that I address in the article. Common Core, Inc. is a 501 (c) that has established a curriculum based on the CCSSI, but is not, in any way, sponsored by the Common Core program (CCSSI) nor the federal government.

      • christine merritt says:

        So,if I am understanding this correctly, New York chose to deviate from the plan and implement a bootleg core called common core created by Common Core Inc.? Does your plan support the connected mandates for dashboard monitoring of students? Did your plan get the full sign off of curriculum creators? I understand that authors of the standards ( Dr. Milgram for one) refused to sign off stating the standards were inferior.I am interested in knowing if your state got the entire nasty core package or just new standards.Our state , districts, and communities are being devastated by all the junk that came disguised as the common core.I believe that it is the wrapping paper that has most upset and not the box.I also need to mention that Dr. King, NYCSED, has failed miserably as an ambassador for the program and has incensed parents across the state.From our conversation I gather that things in your state are vastly different from what we are seeing in NY.When you think of the goal of standardization you have to chuckle and say way to go…

      • Common Core State Standards are just that, standards. Most states have adopted these standards or something similar. They are basically goals for every grade level. Like for 2nd grade kids should be able to: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges. The problems seem to be arising from the way states and districts choose to meet this standard. In this NY has the same standard as Iowa, my state. However, Iowa has merged these standards with their own curriculum allowing districts to choose the texts (the way I understand it) they feel suited to the needs to meet the curriculum. New York, apparently, has adopted a single curriculum. As far as the data collection goes, that has nothing to do with CC either way. The Race to the Top grants include a provision that applicants should adopt programs to better track a students process and make that information available to all of those responsible for the students education. My brother’s HS, (much younger then me, I did not have this tech 😛 ) had a website that allowed students and parents to track the grades, test scores, disciplinary actions of the student. This info was put into the program by teachers and administrators and was available to them off line. To my understanding, this is the type of ‘data collection’ that the grant program would like schools to implement. Based on the grant wording, schools could choose to implement a closed system program to do this. Meaning, they could set up their own servers where information was only available on the schools network, or by certain networked computers. New York has chosen a controversial, state wide, cloud service program. Because the states and districts are allowed to make their own decisions regarding education (which they should) it will never be completely ‘standardized’ (which is very good). But the goal of the program is simply to make sure of things like all 2nd graders should be able to: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges. Looking at the materials from Common Core, Inc. I can see where some of the issue is. There are novels on the list that I would be uncomfortable with (not necessarily that they are being taught but more on the ages of them being taught). I do find it to be a problem when a literary scholar has issues with the ages at which certain novels are taught (though for me it is not necessarily content as I don’t feel children this young can truly understand and appreciate the work, like reading Dune or I, Robot in the 7th grade). Some of them are downright confusing.

      • christine merritt says:

        And then in NY they rewrote the privacy act overseeing the data (FERPA) to allow the data to be distributed to ” vendors” of their choosing i.e. Software corps, the military recruiters , and other unsavory types wishing to profit off new and improved ways to fix a system of ” broken children”.They will not guarantee safety right out of the gates. I also agree with you regarding the age in appropriate things that keep popping up every night. I saw a cc module where they presented an essay on a woman who found another woman’s hair clip under her bed. Then a group of third graders had to write why they felt she was so sad. It sickened me.I cannot even get going on the factual and historical errors being caught DAILY…The content of the modules has also shifted. Now, try to have an open mind for me here….The content plays out like the liberal talking points on a Sunday morning talk show. I have seen gun control, limited medical resources, abortion issues, and incredibly liberal edited versions of our civil liberties and amendment rights. Rachel this is not just my paranoia, this shows up every night. Most moms just cross things out and send them back. One poor little 9th grader is in a heap of trouble merely because he wrote ” Stop Common Core” at the top of a paper.If we had been given a set of benchmarks to incorporate into the daily curriculum of the students, this pandemonium would never have happened. Thank your higher power that you live in a state where all this other crapola isn’t happening. I refuse to let this administration shove their ideological points into our schools and call it educational materials.Lastly, as a teacher, have you really ever opened a computer spreadsheet to evaluate any of your students?

      • As a former educator I think that it is invaluable to know certain information about students, such as physical disabilities or developmental delays. I know teachers who found it useful to enter the schools program (like where all the grades were kept). I knew a science teacher who would constantly check up on students math scores. If they were struggling in math she would give them extra time and help in science. I worked with severe to profound mentally retarded so ‘grading’ wasn’t really part of the education process…or at least, it shouldn’t be. NCLB screwed that up. The ability to get waivers out of NCLB and move to Common Core is invaluable to those students and teachers. Now they can stop focusing on how to teach someone with the mental capacity of an 18mo child 8th grade science (like continuously running at a brick wall at full force and then wondering why it didn’t move), and go back to teaching care and vocational skills. These things will help my students (they can get jobs with these skills) 8th grade science is useless. This also helps my district as the kids are no longer tested for proficiency. I have heard complaints about history texts but have not seen them. I asked questions of one friend where the issue was but other then telling me to watch Glen Beck and get away from liberal media (the question had nothing to do about the media) I could not get any examples of what she was complaining about. Just that it had a liberal bias. Not that I doubt you but I would really love to see some examples. Given what I have seen of this curriculum (reading Like Water for Chocolate, or Their Eyes Were Watching God in HS is a little much, even for this liberal) I would not doubt some issues. I did use a spreadsheet like program to track behaviors. That way I had evidence that the new meds sucked, the shrink was an idiot, and the like for IEP meetings. It also helped determine that some behaviors were cyclical, this helped me anticipate issues and prepare for them.

      • christine merritt says:

        Can you help me understand how a set of common core standards helps with special needs students?The poor moms with kiddos in those situations are incensed with this new program.Why is this so much better than NCLB?

      • First of all, the problem with NCLB is that it did not take special needs kids into account, at all. That means my kids where held to the same standards as kids in the regular classes. These kids were never, ever going to be proficient at grade level. It was no ones fault, it just wasn’t going to happen. If they could be proficient at grade level odds are they wouldn’t be in special ed. That is what NCLB did for mentally disabled kids. NCLB was discriminatory to those with physical disabilities as well, as the law mandated that all students be tested exactly the same, which sounds good only in principle. Before NCLB, blind students were allowed to have test questions read to them and students with movement issues (such as kids with MD) where given more time on the timed portions to make up for the speed they lacked. NCLB took these adaptations to students needs away. I do not know how it functions in NY, but since Iowa was able to kick NCLB to the curb in favor of Common Core these adaptations came back. Remember, NCLB was law and with it came a number of rules and regulations that schools HAD to follow. NCLB treated every child as the same (not equal the same, as in all children learn the same way and are capable of learning the same way), and made no exceptions for those with special needs. Common Core is not law. As nothing more than a set of standards it is not weighed down with the nonsense regulations that NCLB was. This allows states and districts to decide 100% how to run special education and, because it restricts nothing, allows for tests to be adapted to meed the needs of physically disabled students. It is this significant lack of crap regulations from the federal government is one of the reasons why I support Common Core. Plus, common core was created by a group of educators…not suits in Washington.

      • Christine Merritt says:

        *I apologize I am having difficulty sending you the correct link for the conference call.

  2. Lisa from the East says:

    As a parent, I have the right to decide what my child learns and when. Parents used to be included in the selection of texts, and such. So this is a serious problem. Parents, plain and simple.

    • I agree with you 100%. But that is not the fault of CC nor of the federal government. That is an issue to take up with your school district and state. Parents are the solution but they are also part of the problem. If the parents don’t give a hoot about their kids education odds are the kid won’t care either and you cannot force a child to learn, show up, do homework, etc. I would love for parents to be more involved in the education process (I fully support homeschooling for those who are able to manage that and have home-schooled my own kids in the past). But this is why we have school boards and the PTA. The opportunities to be involved are still there, parents (in general, not you specifically…I don’t know you) are simply not taking the time to be as involved as they once were. IMO, that is the #1 reason education has fallen so far.

  3. Tara Bolling says:

    If CC is so great then why are the children coming out of school two years behind in math and behind in English?

    • CC hasn’t been fully implemented yet. It is way to early to test the efficacy of the standards…and not every state has, or is required, to adopt these standards. For the past several years standards have been shoddy to say the least. To judge CC on the basis of where graduates tested after only 2 years in the program is faulty. There is no educational policy that we can come up with that will magically make us leap ahead in math and English overnight. It takes time. Most likely, we won’t be seeing a dramatic improvement until those currently in early elementary graduate. They will have had the foundation that CC provides that was lacking for the students graduating this year.

  4. If the states will not be penalized for not meeting these standards and the children with disabilities will be helped and not hindered as you state, then why in the NY Senate meeting on October 29, 2013 did the first speaker, (the Chancellor) state they had to apply for waivers due to the problems of implementing the programs and the fact they already seen difficulties with the requirements for children with disabilities and the expectations of them testing? If it were truly up to the District, they would not have to beg for a waiver to not be penalized? I would also like to know if the schools are allowed to choose their own age appropriate curriculum, as a parent concerned about the reading material I have seen posted with the stamp of Common Core on it. Learning to read and do math is separate from content which create morals and ethics which are debatable according to cultural or social standards, and should never be forced to be uniform with someone else’s ideas.

    • All states choose how they want to implement education. I stated that I am only familiar with what CC will do for my state. Education is different in all 50 states and the states are not punished by the federal government for not implementing Common Core (or a similar system). I cannot say what each state will do about districts. That is for them to decide and if it is an issue then it is at the state level and not the federal level (my main point of the entire piece is that if there are educational issues they lie with the state and not the fed). Who determines a single schools curriculum is a result of state and district regulations. Some states, like mine, leave it pretty open to the districts. Others may not. If you are concerned about the curriculum I would suggest looking at your state regulations, district regulations and school board decisions…as well as talking directly with the teacher. I agree that cultural and social standards should not be uniform, but that is not the premise behind CC. CC deals with skills, math skills, science skills, English skills so that our kids can compete with the rest of the world. CC is a set of guidelines as to where the majority (some will always be above and below the curve) of students should be by certain grade levels. CC, sponsored by the federal government, not mandated provides only the benchmarks. How those goals are met are outside of the fed in the states. Out of curiosity, what reading materials have concerned you? No, malice behind the question, I really am curious and always want to know more, especially from those whose views differ from mine. But an approved reading in Iowa may not be approved in NY something approved in CA may not be approved in the other 49 states. I also have no idea if CC will effect private schools or homeschooling curriculum either…that, I would assume, is up to the states. CC is not legislation, there is no bill, no law it is a recommendation only.

      • My main concerns are questions being asked about family members traits, income questions, and ideas that deal with government including some I have seen that state rich people are bad. These are actual English related homework sheets with Common Core stamped on them. I have problems with some literature as well, mainly with sexual orientated materials which talk about sexual orientation and how families are to be structured or not. They have discussed in this text how people who do not follow certain lifestyles end up having problems and that it is wrong to put your own wants or needs in front of what is good for everyone else. Think about the fact they are teaching these ideas to children in early elementary school and then coming home to conflicting ideas. My son is so sick, he won’t get up for school anymore, he argues at everything I say, and now has high blood pressure, headaches, and is on medication just to sleep at night. All of these major changes have occurred since his homework has changed to Common Core this school year. He is very stressed out and even bites his nails. I know this sounds crazy, and I should be thrilled that he is an “A” student, but at what cost?

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