On October 15th I went to a Townhall given by a State Senator in a predominately minority neighborhood. The panel consisted of a member of the California Department of Education, members of Education Trust-West, United Way, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and several teachers.
They all spoke glowingly in general terms of how wonderful Common Core is and how it will raise the standards. I wondered if the $622 million being spent on Common Core had anything to do with their view.
In spite of their glowing reviews they confirmed all my fears about Common Core. One of the panelists, a former principal told us a story about parent’s night at his child’s school. He said the teacher was telling him about teaching the second graders fractions. He said he didn’t want to appear to be the know-it-all parent but he asked if it wouldn’t be better to teach fractions in the third grade (as well as Algebra being moved from sixth grade to seventh). She wanted to know why in the world that would be better. He told her Common Core wanted children to really understand the basics before moving into fractions. He told her Common Core wasn’t as interested so much in the correct answer as in the children being able to explain how they reached that answer. In other words, 2+2 can equal 5 as long as you can explain why. I’d call that lowering the standards, not raising them.
I hate to throw water on their reverie but I’m pretty certain in Math the answer is the ONLY thing that matters. If I hire a contractor to build a kitchen cabinet and it’s four inches too short, I’m not going to care if he can explain to me why it’s four inches too short, I’m going to care that it IS four inches too short.
All the time these panelists were talking about how badly our schools were currently doing, especially in the minority neighborhoods with less than 50% graduating, they were also saying how Common Core will change all that. I wasn’t clear how they thought that would happen. Perhaps lowering Math standards would increase test scores? Perhaps not having to have the correct answer as long as you can come up with some BS way to explain it, will increase grade point averages? It is important to note the Common Core Commission that approved the standards had only one Mathematician and he refused to sign off on the Math standards.
They went on to explain the changes in reading standards. How moving from 80% classics to 80% non-fiction would better prepare our children for the work force. When they say “non-fiction” they aren’t talking about biographies of our founding fathers, explorers, inventors or the Federalist Papers, or the Constitution, Bill of Rights or Declaration of Independence. They are talking about technical manuals, EPA regulations, Executive Orders, and such. I have to ask how replacing classics that tell fascinating stories, with EPA regulations is going to be more appealing to our children?
They spoke vaguely about the data that will follow our children their entire lives. One of the teachers told about a new student in his class. He said his previous school transcript wasn’t detailed enough for him to know where this student was in relation to what he was teaching. He explained Common Core will have standard data collection and standard teaching standards so it will be easy for them to know where these children are educationally. He spoke of how that will help them direct the children into career choices. In my opinion, it is a teacher’s job to figure out where a student fits in. I’m less interested in making teacher’s lives easier than I am in protecting the privacy and reputation of our children and their families.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated millions to Common Core because they are designing the computer programs that will collect all the data on our children that will follow them all their lives. I’m sure their donation had nothing to do with the fact they will profit handsomely from their program being used by every school in the country. Future employers will be able to access this information and see that your child was flagged for being suspended from school at six for pointing their finger and saying bang, bang. They can see your family owned guns, went to church and voted Republican.
My greatest objection about Common Core and any big government program is that they see a problem and throw money at it instead addressing why it’s happening. If “Race to the Top” isn’t working, if the “three R’s” aren’t working, what evidence do they have Common Core will work? How about asking why less than 50% of our children are graduating? How about looking at the various charter schools that have 100% graduation rate and see how they are engaging the children. These schools from low income, minority neighborhoods didn’t need a big government program to change the outcome and they have done it for less money. What I’m certain about is that they didn’t do it by moving various math disciplines to higher grades or reducing the number of classics the children read.
While the panel pointed out that most of the children in schools with low graduation rates come from low income, single family homes and foster homes, they didn’t consider how that might have more influence on outcomes than the curriculum.