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Common Core Standards — Amazing! Unbelievable! Scary!

Last weekend I was at annual barbecue for civic activists. The hostess is an elected member of the Campbell school board. She mentioned that the district will begin to adopt the so-called Common Core Standards curriculum – this fall. California and public schools in 44 other states have committed to migrate to Common Core Standards by the fall of 2014-15.

However, she continued, she couldn’t “tell” me “what Common Core is” except to say it had something to do with more oral communication, more oral reports delivered by the kids in front of their classmates.

Amazing! Unbelievable! Scary!

School board members are elected to be a Board of Directors overseeing the professional team responsible for educating our children. It is not the board’s job to develop the line item spending plan for the school district. Nor is it their job to develop detailed lesson plans. It is their job to insure the quality of the education all students in the district receive.

If the school board doesn’t understand the new curriculum and curricular objectives how can they measure student and teacher outcomes? More importantly, how will they explain those results to district parents and to taxpayers?

It is amazing that at the first mention of the POSSIBLE migration to Common Core Standards, the school board members did not instruct the superintendent to provide them an in-depth briefing on Common Core. It is equally amazing that the superintendent did not offer such a briefing.

It is unbelievable that state after state and school board after school board across the country has agreed to adopt Common Core Standards without a detailed tabular analysis of the differences between No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core. In business, migration would be preceded by a rigorous defense made to the Board of Directors complete with a detailed rollout plan, including go/no milestones, and clear measures of success.

It is scary that this school board member isn’t more curious about on what Common Core Standards mean for the education of her own five (5) children. It’s not that she does not care. Rather, it is intimidation by the unelected, unaccountable “experts” that makes most parents avoid asking questions. The education industry, like the technology industry, enhances its value through the artful use of language to obfuscate and intimidate.

I too am “expert” – an “expert” at identifying gobbledy goop!

Take for example, Common Core math standards for kindergarten.

  • Counting and cardinality
  • Operations and algebraic thinking
  • Numbers and operations in base 10
  • Measurement and data
  • Geometry.

Parents of America don’t panic. That means teachers are going to focus on teaching kindergarteners to count to 100, figure out simple word problems, and to distinguish between the characteristics of circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles.

It’s no accident that these standards are designed to emphasize the complexity of education. Simplicity is the best way to INCLUDE parents in the education process!

Scariest of all  – Common Core Standards were developed under the leadership of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – the two most militant teachers’ unions in the world! If you are unfamiliar with these unions, or their laser-like focus on the interest of teachers rather than students, I suggest that you go to Netflix© and order the 2010 film “Waiting for Superman”.

My research turned up some things to like about Common Core objectives. It increases the emphasis on comprehension. Students will be required stand in front of the class more often and talk about what has been learned and to put it in a broader context – what my friend described as “communication”. Students will be taught fewer new concepts per subject each year but each “unit of learning” will be taught with more depth and more integration to other subjects (for example linking reading to science and/or history). These signal a shift from “teaching to the test” to retained learning.

But I remain skeptical that Common Core Standards are just another “quick fix” smoke screen that will only postpone the inevitable day-of-reckoning for a public education system that is hopelessly broken.  There are no published measures of success. How will governors, school boards, and parents know if Common Core is working? We can’t wait another 10 years to answer that question!

If you are concerned about your children’s education, forward this blog to the principal at your school and demand a SERIES OF DETAILED Common Core Standards Implementation briefings for parents – this year and through 2014-15. “Back to School Night” is not enough!

Photo Credit: NGA Center/CCSSO

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