Pretend for a moment that your kids had to take one spelling test to determine their future.
Their ability to pick a college, get into that college, get enough financial aid to attend that college and eventually get a great job because of what they learned at that college all depended on this one test.
As a parent, I would make a practice spelling list and make my children practice every night until the day of the test. But in Indiana, state lawmakers are thinking about giving our kids a practice list with a set of words that aren’t going to be on the final test.
You might have guessed by now that the spelling list in this analogy is the Common Core. Common Core is the law of the land in Indiana and 45 other states right now. But some state lawmakers want to take Common Core out of Indiana. And to this point in the debate, the arguments have been about whether our old spelling list was better than the new one. Or worse yet, whether this spelling list was made by the states or by federal overlords.
As a 13-year teacher, I’m happy to defend Common Core in those debates. But I am writing this letter as a parent. I have two children approaching their teenage years. And while they haven’t started thinking about college yet, I sure have.
I know to get a good job 10 years from now, they will need some sort of post-secondary education. They won’t have to take a spelling test to get into college, but they will have to take the SAT or the ACT.
The dangerous fact that the anti-Common Core crowd is ignoring is that those two college entrance exams will soon be aligned to the Common Core state standards. What that means is that the skills Indiana teachers teach based on the Common Core will be the bar my kids will have to jump to get into college and earn scholarships.
If Indiana pulls out of the Common Core, my kids will immediately be at a disadvantage when stacked up against the students in the 45 states that do have Common Core. Those students will be taking a spelling test full of words they have studied for years. Hoosier kids would be taking a spelling test that might as well be written in Korean.
A Common Core opponent once told me that they don’t care how their child compares to a child in Arizona. Well, you might not, but Indiana University does. And so do Purdue, Notre Dame and all of the higher ed institutions in this country. They examine those test scores side by side to determine who gains admission into their school.
After I graduated from Ball State University’s teachers college, I moved to Lansing, Mich., for my first teaching job. After a few years there, I decided to move back home to Indiana. When I moved, I had to throw out all my old lesson plans and start over to teach to Indiana’s differing standards.
I had time to adjust, and that’s my job. But a student who spends 12 years learning from standards that don’t line up with college entrance requirements will not have time to adjust before that SAT score comes in the mail.
As lawmakers debate the merits of Common Core, I hope they consider the implications of halting these standards here. For the sake of my kids and the kids I teach, I hope they make the right decision and keep Common Core.