The Common Core standards being imposed by the federal government on state education departments include “world citizenship mush,” according to an expert on education, even if supporters do claim that they are just exactly what American students need.
But the cracks are starting to appear in the official program that is part of Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, which was armed with $2.35 billion in tax money and dangles a carrot in front of schools to take part in various education consortia.
For example, an eighth grade student recently complained of being suspended by her school when she told classmates they were not required to take the Common Core English test scheduled by the school.
Seirra Olivero filed a complaint with the school district because she felt bullied by three administrators over the issue.
And another report revealed that an assignment for a sixth-grader in Arkansas had students revise the Bill of Rights, leaving two out and adding two, as part of the Common Core set of standards.
Now, one teacher is taking a not-so-great view of Common Core, in fact, quitting her job at least partly because of Common Core.
According to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Pauline Hawkins resigned from her English teaching position in the city because of her love of teaching and the pride she has in her students.
Her letter says, in part, “I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher – I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis is on Common Core Standards and high stakes testing that is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers, and stress and anxiety for our students.
“Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves, because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer,” she said.
The Gazette reported, “Her letter is a sad farewell to her administration and her students, laying bare her feelings about what she sees as the federal and state government overstepping local control of schools. At the heart of her distress are the new Common Core standards, low teacher pay in Colorado and endless testing and teaching to the test, which she and many others believe is making students fail rather than succeed.”
On Hawkins’ blog, she posted the letter, where she also notes problems with low pay, but emphasizes, “ethically, I can no longer work in an educational system that is spiraling downwards while it purports to improve the education of our children.”
“I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.
“It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve years ago – and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top,” she said.
She challenged education managers to follow her lead: “Since I’ve worked here, we have always asked the question of every situation: ‘Is this good for kids?’ My answer to this new legislation is, ‘No. This is absolutely not good for kids.’ I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children – our future.”
The Washington Post had reported on a similar statement just a few days earlier.
There, teacher Susan Sluyter in the Cambridge Public Schools wrote, “I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.”
She cites workshops, classes, meetings to learn more assessing, testing and qualifying skills, just at a time when her students are shouting, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!”
“Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best – and in the way child development experts recommend.”
One problem was a new math “more aligned with the Common Core,” she wrote. “As with Common Core, there is little clear evidence of its worth and quality…”
Mike Smith, president of HSLDA, said homeschooling “has shown us that an individualized education is the best thing for a child.”
“Common Core is the complete opposite of that,” he said. “Our hope is that the film will cause a ‘great awakening’ and that parents will question the one-size-fits-all education reform being implemented behind closed doors.”
Filmmaker Ian Reid spent a year traveling the nation and interviewing education experts, including several Common Core Validation Committee members.
“We’ve been very clear from the beginning that our goal is not to produce a hit piece against the standards,” said Reid. “Rather, our goal has always been to explore the strongest arguments on both sides of the debate. In fact, we asked Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute, an ardent supporter of Common Core, to fact check the film, and he thanked us for fairly and accurately presenting what he believes about the Common Core.”
Reid told WND that Common Core not a curriculum, as many critics contend. But he said it does have standards that curriculum material must meet.
Reid said the dangers appear to be in the standardization itself. When second-graders across the nation are taught from identical standards, using identical books, images and the like, there is no room for variation.
“When you have that kind of standardization across the board … it suddenly cuts down on creativity in classrooms,” he said.
Reid said it eliminates the concept that education is an individualized effort for students.
In a recent special series on Common Core, WND reported that more and more people are fighting it, even in states where it is considered a done deal.
“There are a lot of organizations that have sprung up for the express purpose of fighting Common Core,” said Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project, at the time.
“It’s truly a grassroots effort. It is extraordinary,” Robbins said, explaining that no one thought the movement would get this big. “The whole point was the way they treated this was that it would be a done deal before anyone found out. They thought people would be sheep and roll over and accept what the ‘experts’ told them to do. But it hasn’t turned out that way.”
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