Common Core…A View From the Inside by Mike Matthews

Common Core is a seemingly harmless set of educational standards signed on to by the 46 states. While the actual content of the Core seems rather innocuous, it’s the intent of the Core that many should find offensive. The Common Core attempts to standardize what students “should know” in each grade so as to hold all students across the country (and their educators) to the same account. This will — hopefully — mean all students are on the same level playing field so as to make us, allegedly, more competitive in this global marketplace.

In Delaware, we’ve gone from Performance Indicators to Grade Level Expectations to Common Core State Standards in about five years. Teachers have been trying to keep up with the pace at which their standards keep changing. When you read the Common Core standards, there is an element of simplification that could actually be a benefit to many teachers. There are fewer standards that children have to master. In essence, the Common Core standards seek to ensure children MASTER fewer standards at an earlier point in their scholastic career to ensure they have a solid foundation to move on to more complex challenges in their middle and high school careers.

My criticism of Common Core is what I feel will be the inevitable outcomes. While those who support the Core say there’s no reason to believe CURRICULUM will be standardized, there are reasonable concerns that this will happen and the individuality a teacher brings to his or her classroom and instruction will be watered down to meet these Federal standards. There’s a possibility for loss of local control beyond what we’ve already ceded by signing on to Common Core. There will be a greater emphasis on ensuring teachers are rigidly sticking to the Core when their administrators do walk-throughs of their classroom as well as other formal observations and evaluations.

Again, while the intent of the Core is likely harmless, the outcome could prove devastating to the creativity and spirit of millions of teachers across the country who already feel bogged down by the continued bureaucratic, top-down mess that seems to be invading their classrooms. The jury is still out on the Core, but when we take a look at other Federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, then there’s reason for many of us to be concerned.

16 Comments on "Common Core…A View From the Inside by Mike Matthews"

  1. Frank Knotts says:

    Thank you Mike for a reasoned and insider view of this issue.

  2. Mike Protack says:

    How about a simple concept. Have all curriculum match teacher training, testing and the needs of students to be successful, employable and hopefully happy.

    There is no magic bullet or acronym by government at any level which can “solve” the education problem. The rest of the world is eating our lunch in k-12 education while our College/University is the world’s best. In America parents and students run from public schools yet the world comes to America for our Colleges and Universities.

    Education reform is usually a “money chase” by both parties.

  3. saltyindependent says:

    for those of you into conspiracy theories, sandi mindard has scheduled some carpet baggers to appear at cape board meeting on thursday prior to her reintroducing the meaningless resolution she brought up a while back. it has no chance of passing. meanwhile the real issues facing the district like what to do about growth are pushed out.

  4. anon says:

    the chsd agenda shows minards resolution is a presentation/public discussion as in parents of students voicing their opinions those people you are calling carpetbaggers like mrs reiley btw there are already 3 board members opposed to common core

  5. Frank Knotts says:

    Once again it is about optics. Those shouting the loudest come off as kooks, leading many to discount their points based simply on who they are. it is nice that Mike has given us a reasoned opinion. I heard the other side of the coin Monday at the Sussex GOP meeting, two people stood up to tell of a presentation from an IRSD official and that they felt there is more to the story than what is being put out by the more radical view point that CC will steal your children in the night.
    Of course they were challenge by a 912 Patriot in the room, who identified themselves as such when they began speaking, and another person who as usual became a bit aggressive in his response. Both suggested that people come to the CHSD meeting to hear from “EXPERTS” on CC. One has to wonder how impartial the “EXPERT” will be.

  6. Dave says:

    “My criticism of Common Core is what I feel will be the inevitable outcomes. ”

    That is a valid concern. So the crux of the issue is how to ensure that that schools, teachers and students have a common core across the nation while still maintaining the individuality is necessary to educate a diverse body of students through individualized teaching by teachers who understand their student’s needs and can reflect their own experience in delivering education.

    Now if the problem were stated in that manner, I am certainly on board and agree that we should explore the problem and possible solutions to avoid the inevitable outcomes.

    When building a road an inevitable outcome are vehicle accidents and deaths. The response to that outcome wouldn’t be to not build the road (or vehicles to travel on the road). What we implement are speed limits, traffic lights, and other mechanisms that mitigate that inevitable outcome.

    How folks like the Minards of the world are put in positions of responsibility is the real problem.

  7. kavips says:

    If there was a way to package poultry waste and sell is as protein, Poultry Farmers would… Put a nice sleeve of foil around it, have sexy teens having fun while chewing it, poultry farmers would be crazy not to sell it..

    That is a metaphorical description of common core. One could put candy or something good in those wrappers and it would still work. It is what is in Common Core! That is the real problem. I’ve seen Common Core. It comes home in homework packets.

    That is the problem, really. What is inside the wrapper being sold, is harmful.

  8. Dave says:

    I assume you mean the actual standards are harmful. So, I’ll bite, how are those standards harmful? Is there any particular standard that comes to mind or are they all poor standards?

  9. anon says:

    The Tea Party and people like Sandi Minard opposing it is a surefire guarantee that Common Core will be with us for a long time. They take whatever “facts” are handed to them from whatever libertarian think tanks and present them without any thinking of their own. And then, as Markell did in the Post, people use the TP’s amateurishness against them, drowning out any legitimate complaint about CC.

    If they want CC stopped, the best thing for them to do is drop any association with its’ opposition.

  10. saltyindependent says:

    “If they want CC stopped, the best thing for them to do is drop any association with its’ opposition.”

    very well said.

  11. saltyindependent says:

    apparently the presentation from freedom works took place tonight at the cape board meeting. the motion for a vote on the resolution for not adopting the common core was not seconded…. .by anyone…. at all….. there was no vote….. pathetic

  12. anon says:

    The resolution can only be seconded by another board member not anyone in the audience. Also CHSD board member Mr. Prettyman was not present he was in the hospital.

  13. Dave says:

    I have yet to see any cogent discussion on what the issues are with the actual standards. Makes me wonder if anyone has read the actual standards.

  14. saltyindependent says:

    i am familiar with roberts rules of order. the audience in support of the presenter was mostly from outside the district. there was no second because cape is not part of western sussex….that board won’t be approving a bible class either.

  15. Frank Knotts says:

    SaltyI, there are far too many people who spend all day looking out over their fence at the perceived mess in their neighbor’s yard, and never turn around to see the real mess in their own backyard.

  16. Evan Queitsch says:

    I just had a heart attack because I realized that Mike Matthews and I just had a kumbaya moment. I realize that most of the Delaware comment-o-sphere thinks that people who support the TEA Party are just spoon fed talking points and that’s a fun fantasy world to live in but most of us do our homework. In my case, I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching Common Core. Now, I’m not a university trained “teacher” but I have spoken to enough current and former teachers about the subject to know that my general ability to comprehend the subject matter is pretty good. Perhaps there is some psychology element that professional educators get in their formal schooling that makes some of the standards sensible but I’ll tell you, even the accredited teachers I’ve spoken to have concerns about the rigor of the standards.

    I see a few very major problems with the whole Common Core discussion (that has only come to light because someone spotted what was going on behind the scenes and asked why).

    1st – The idea of common standards sounds great except that most times you setup “common” standards, you bring up some and DOWN others. Some states, like Massachusetts, who had incredibly HIGH standards, will see them decline while others like Tennessee will see them rise.

    2nd – Who developed the standards and for what purpose? The fact is that the standards were developed by a special interest group put together by textbook manufacturers and informed by big business (Exxon/Mobile, etc.) then they were delivered to the state Boards of Education. They were designed to provide a transition into what these large corporations saw as “the jobs of tomorrow” (mostly STEM related). In fact, most of the educators I’ve spoken to hadn’t even SEEN the standards until AFTER their districts had signed the MoU for RttT that ensured they would be stuck with Common Core. It doesn’t matter what side of the spectrum you come from politically, the philosophical question is, why are you sending your kids to school? Is it to give them job training or a well rounded education?

    3rd – Many educators have questioned the standards. On the math side, many find them convoluted and potentially confusing. On the English/Language Arts side, the CC Standards replace fiction literary works with non-fiction sources. This is causing some angst in the ELA community. Likewise, respected educators who helped develop some of the best standards in the world have complained that these standards HAVE NOT BEEN TESTED. There’s not an ounce of proof that any of these changes IMPROVES outcomes. Why not test it first?

    4th – Even if you excuse the special interest groups as “well meaning” (though they stand to gain quite a bit through a tailored workforce) and the standards as “practical” (though many educators would disagree)…you have to ask yourself, are standards REALLY the only thing in play here? If so, why has the federal government outlaid $360 million to PARCC and SBAC to develop assessments? The reality is that Common Core is not JUST standards. It can’t be. It would totally defeat the purpose of what the creators themselves say they wanted. What good are standards without a way to assess the progress of states toward meeting them? And what good are standards AND assessments without a curriculum that teaches to those standards and assessments? Simply, you can’t have Common Core Standards without Common Core aligned assessments and Common Core aligned curriculum. Hence the reason why McGraw-Hill and other textbook and online curriculum resource companies are making “Common Core aligned” resources.

    These are real concerns backed up with facts. We’re not talking about “conspiracy theories” about shadowy billionaires or national take overs (despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence to support those claims). We’re talking about concerns about the standards themselves. Do my concerns not count because I’m a vocal conservative, or JUST a parent (as we’ve been told by some school board members and teachers…parents just don’t know enough)? I have 4 children, 2 of which are in school already, 1 is entering next year and the 4th a few years behind that. Forget the fact that I’m “Evan Queitsch” (insert thug…tinfoil hat…TEA Party….election loser joke here) and just look at the objections above…does any of this matter to anyone or is it just ok because the DSEA and the Obama/Markell Administrations say it is?

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