Usually most newspaper editorials are barely worthy of lining bird cages, but I wanted to point out three editorials I recently read on the Common Core that can be elevated beyond that status.
The Ft. Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel recently published (and I love the headline) “Federalism is still the best way to approach education.”
Yes, yes it is. Here is an excerpt:
Participating in the 2013 Education Nation Summit in New York City this week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear had to spend a lot of time defending what their states aren’t doing. Pence tried to explain why Indiana isn’t forging ahead with Common Core academic standards that have been adopted by 47 states. Beshear was questioned about Kentucky’s decision not to adopt charter school legislation when most of the other states have.
As it happens, we agree with Pence more than we do with Beshear. Common Core standards may not be the best, and they would erode state control, so a pause to examine them is certainly in order. But charter schools are an effective way to give students and parents more choice without going all the way to a voucher system that funnels public money into private schools.
But that’s beside the point, which is that despite the centralization of almost everything in the last few decades, states still have some ability to experiment with their education programs to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And that learning process can be sped along by watching what other states are doing – and not doing – in their own experiments.
The Racine (WI) Journal Times: “Legislators are right to keep an eye on Common Core.” Not everything in this op/ed is favorable or an item I would wholeheartedly agree with (they think national standards could be a good thing – I disagree). They show concern about the one-size-fits-all track the Common Core could take (we would argue – will take):
One of the major financial supporters of the initiative has been The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Bill Gates has been quoted saying, “Identifying common standards is just the starting point. We’ll only know if this effort has succeeded when the curriculum and tests are aligned to these standards.”
That is where it gets concerning.
To educate students, it’s important to try to individualize lessons. That could mean one year a teacher uses football or basketball statistics to help get students interested in multiplication and division. Similarly, in various parts of the country, different literature may have played a key role in the area and should be taught, whereas it’s not as important for another part of the country.
It’s absolutely imperative that teachers are given that flexibility to determine how best to teach their students. And if students surpass expectations one year, teachers should be able to teach lessons from the next grade level if the students are ready.
In general we don’t know if the new standards are good or bad. There is a lot of conflicting information being released right now on the new program.
The Nashua (NH) Telegraph wrote “Common Core Might Not Matter.”
The fact that nearly all states have adopted the Common Core standards ought to be a red flag, because you rarely see that kind of national consensus on anything that doesn’t involve giving away “free” money. That, we suspect, may account for why educators are pushing so hard for their boards to adopt Common Core; doing so can improve the chances of getting Department of Education grants under the “Race to the Top” program. Money colors judgment, and that’s a lousy reason to let the federal government into our classrooms more than they already are.
Critics of Common Core have been strident in their opposition, but there’s no question they are passionate and well-intentioned and stridency doesn’t necessarily equal wrong. In fact, the people who oversee our schools would do well to consider that at least some of the criticisms of Common Core may be valid.
The concept that local boards of education hold any real sway over what gets taught in schools went out the classroom window years ago. It is, in fact, a myth.
But that doesn’t mean local boards should hastily rubber-stamp the Common Core standards, either. If they’re going to approve them, they should take their time, examine them with a critical eye and adapt them as much as possible to create the best possible outcomes.