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Web letter by Julian Smith: Common Core standards would take Indiana students backwards

As out-of-state investors and pro-privatization education interest groups pour into our state with their deep pockets to advocate through media advertisements in favor of Common Core state standards, it would seem the practitioners commissioned to implement them should be consulted as well. As a teacher of 22 years in our public schools, concerns exist with the newest fad to sweep the nation.

Does anyone need to be reminded of the last national fad to be imposed by Washington? It was a bipartisan initiative called No Child Left Behind, and there are few who believe it did anything to improve the educational environment or the instructional climate in our state or nation. In fact, every attempt to “fix” education with more federal involvement has only served to harm it.

Four of the most compelling concerns with Common Core are:

1) The complete loss of local/state oversight to the federal government.

2) The exorbitant and yet-to-be-accounted- or budgeted-for cost of technology, teacher training, new materials, testing, etc.

3) The standards themselves are flawed and neither research-based nor benchmarked, and they are not only lower than what high-performing countries expect, but it is generally accepted that our current Indiana standards are superior, especially in math.

4) Collection of student data and a loss of privacy and confidentiality as student data are gathered and digitally warehoused.

Additionally, today we are in a position where teachers can hardly teach as they are being weighed down by the bureaucratization of the classroom. It is obvious that the movement to standardize and micromanage what is taught in the classroom has resulted in a lowering of the bar. And testing and data collection are crowding out teaching and learning.

Common Core is not only one more bad idea, it is the worst and most dangerous one yet. According to James Milgram, a Stanford mathematician who served on the Common Core validation committee but refused to sign off, American students will be two years behind their counterparts in high-performing nations in math by the end of eighth grade.

Likewise, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, who served on the English Language Arts Validation Committee and also refused to sign off along with four others, says that the literacy requirements for a high school diploma under Common Core are at about a seventh grade level. Furthermore, she repeatedly asked for any evidence anywhere that says reading “informational texts” (nonfiction), required in greater doses in Common Core, as opposed to classic and creative literature, will result in improved literacy skills or greater student achievement. None was provided.

I believe that Common Core is a shift away from educating children toward training them for the workforce. Big business thinks it would be cheaper, and more beneficial to them, to apply a factory-style approach to our schools. They do not understand that children are not widgets.

If parents and teachers unite, both can have a voice, although we lack the deep pockets and inexhaustible resources that test-generating companies and the privatize crowd can bring to bear.

Effective and experienced teachers have the same goals and aspirations for students that parents have. Let’s hope they speak up on behalf of diverse quality, and autonomous standards, and in opposition to what the Teach For America teachers, such as Miss Ashley Hebda, seen in the ads on television, are saying in favor of Common Core.

One doesn’t have to dig too deep to realize that Common Core is one more colossal bad idea with personal individual as well as national implications and unintended adverse consequences.