As one of the researchers looking for evidence to either determine whether Common Core is good or bad, I get excited when someone else takes all my work and puts it eloquently on one page, and does it so well.  In this piece by Oregon’s State Rep Dennis Richardson, everything we’ve learned about Common Core is there, all concisely edited to one page.  And it is awesome… I was thinking of it having just recently reminded myself of how Delaware Liberal is so cold to the threat Common Core imposes.  Those few Democrats aware of Common Core, are violently against it. Those who have not looked under the hood of Common Core, still laud it for its design qualities… So what if it won’t work?; they don’t have children. 

I’m going to make some adjustments, and switch out Oregon references and sub them with a Delawarean one. But again, the acclaim should all go to the staffer who put this together for Rep. Dennis Richardson.  I hope historians and literary experts hold this art work as the perfect example of Early 21st Century Prose..  It is simply beautiful.

Enjoy as you would good Literature; for if Common Core is successful, you are going to be the last generation of Americans to learn how to appreciate it.

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To put this discussion into perspective, consider the following scenario: The leaning I 495 Bridge has been a source of concern. Leaning and unsafe, it needed to be completely restructured to remain functional, a project that is currently underway and soon to finish.

bridgepiers

Now imagine that because of the dilapidated condition of the I 495 Bridge, every bridge in the state is to be torn down and rebuilt– all at the same time. Think of the cost, the disruption, the waste. Of course the idea would be ridiculous, but in a way it is exactly what is being foisted on the entire Delaware education system by mandating implementation of the Common Core, and the silence from the Legislature is deafening.  Only 4 legislators stood up against this outrage. (The rest never bothered to inquire).

What is Common Core?

Starting this academic year, all Delawarean public schools (as well as those in many other states) are scheduled to abandon previously established academic standards and implement a new and untried nationalized set of learning goals called Common Core. The performance of these standards will be measured by new standardized tests. At Common Core’s outset, when the federal government offered “stimulus” money to the state Governors that accepted Common Core, the standards and tests involved had not even been written. In other words, the Governor and state education leaders unilaterally committed all Delaware’s school districts to adopting a new statewide curriculum before it had even been developed, and Delaware was committed without any citizen’s or their elected representative’s consideration or approval.

Since then, Common Core’s standards and tests have been created by a group of people with very limited classroom experience, and in many cases NO classroom experience at all. Now, Common Core’s standards are being implemented without any legislative or public involvement, and still have not been fully tested. Currently many states are seeking to repeal or delay implementation of Common Core, and a great deal of legislation has been proposed across the nation to address this issue. The American Federation of Teachers union, called for a midcourse moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core. The Delawarean teachers’ union (DSEA) has also voted no-confidence on Markell’s roll out of Common Core… Even Common Core’s biggest supporter, the Gates Foundation, has called for a two-year delay. Concern over prematurely implementing Common Core crosses political party lines. People who would normally be on opposite sides of the issues are banding together to speak out against Common Core.

Why is opposition to Common Core so widespread and impassioned?

Let’s ask the teachers, those who work in the ‘trenches,’ in Delaware’s classrooms, those who often spend more time with our children than anyone else. The best teachers will tell you that regardless of low pay or long hours, they are teachers because they are passionate about the subjects they teach, about learning, and about being able to make a difference in childrens’ lives. I can only imagine what it will do to the state of our classrooms if, when summer vacation ends, our highly evaluated teachers will throw out the lesson plans they adjust to meet their students’ needs and instead teach to Common Core’s new standardized tests—replacing strong curriculum with test preparation activities. The ‘heart’ and the passion that connects our best teachers to their students will be missing when they are relegated to class monitors, provided scripted materials written by bureaucrats and other non-educators. Certainly some select schools of Delaware’s educational system need to be overhauled from what it once was, but Common Core is not ready to solve the systemic needs of all of Delaware’s entire educational system. Veteran teachers are reporting morale is at an all-time low and every bit of it is attributed to the confusion and sterility of Common Core State Standard’s (CCSS) approach to learning and testing. This concerns me greatly, for if passion and creativity are forced out of teaching, we will lose our passionate and creative teachers.  When everyone looks back on their education, it was always a passionate and creative teacher we remember who changed our life.

To make matters worse, the future of our teachers are at risk. The new system will tie teacher evaluations to student success on Common Core tests without provisions made for those who teach our more “high-risk” learners, such as low-income students and those with learning disabilities and those coming in knowing a no English. It seems an almost foregone conclusion that our at-risk learners will fail and the jobs of their teachers are jeopardized since pro-Common Core State Superintendent Mark Murphy expects less than 35% of Delaware’s students will pass the Common Core tests. The Delaware Department of Education has not requested the U.S. Department of Education to temporarily let teachers off the hook for expected low test scores of Delaware students, the schools and school districts will be ranked by a test created, dispensed, and graded by bureaucrats, not teachers. I ask you. Who then will teach our most challenged students, when teachers know their reputations or professional futures will definitely be jeopardized if they work with at-risk students? Then, add the fact that teachers have been given little or no training on these new standards, and it becomes very evident that there are serious flaws with Common Core. Should we really be implementing something we are expecting students to fail? Who will flourish in this setting? Gifted students will be bored, students who already dislike school will be even more inclined to skip, and students with obstacles to learning will simply be unable to succeed. Teachers in schools that have already begun implementing Common Core tell me how all struggling students are being pulled out of electives in order to pass early implementation Common Core tests. These teachers are witnessing the marginalization of students whose strengths lie outside of the areas being tested!!! Many teachers are agonizing that Common Core’s mandate will do more harm than good, and will only compound Delaware’s problems with absenteeism and lack of on-time graduation. Is this really what we want for Delaware’s children? Of course not.

When it comes to enacting these new standards, we have more unanswered questions. How much will it cost to train teachers to implement Common Core? How much to purchase new learning materials and to acquire the technology necessary to administer and track the tests? And, who will pay? With schools already in dire financial straits, where will the money come from to implement yet another federal educational experiment on Delaware’s rising generation now that the Race To The Top Funds are exhausted? Finally, it concerns me to see that every single one of the people behind these standards and the requirements of these tests are affiliated with multi-billion dollar companies with financial conflicts of interest!

These are companies that have near monopolies on the contracts to provide the tests and corresponding curriculum. There is a glaring conflict of interest in having mandatory materials designed by those who are positioned to profit from them. And even if profits to its originators didn’t taint this new system, even if good intentions were the sole impetus behind this top-down policy, national control of state education policies is still always a bad idea.

Decisions about the education of our children should not be dictated by a select, distant few, who have never ever even seen a Delaware child. Educational decisions are always best made by those closest to the students—parents, teachers and local school boards—not far away state and federal bureaucrats and large, conflicted corporate representatives. Delaware’s education standards need local control with rational state oversight and evidence-based practices learned from Delaware’s most successful schools. We have succeeded this way. Currently, despite our state’s problems, Delaware’s on-time graduation rate is pretty good and our student absentee rate is far lower than every other state. I believe in educational equality for all students and that every student deserves three things—a mentor, a reason to stay in school and an opportunity for a decent job after graduation. I believe action to fix Delaware’s few failing schools must be taken, but it should be based on what is working in Delaware’s most successful schools, not untried “bizarro world” educational experiments fomented by national “educrats” and funded with federal largess.

Solutions for Delaware’s few educational failures.

Rather than fret over the dismal state of Delaware’s statewide educational system and rather than pathetic attempts by Governor Markell and his appointed education leaders to address it by implementing Common Core, let’s look to Delaware’s home-grown examples of success. DCAS. Let’s look to the many stories of exemplary teaching and learning that are setting the standard for academic achievement Delaware. The Indian River School District educates low income students better than almost anyone in the world!  And there are many more stories like these. In fact, 8 of 44 Delaware  high schools were ranked nationally according to the US News and World Report 2014 list of America’s best high schools.

The list of Delaware schools included two with gold medals. With answers and examples of excellence right here in Delaware, why on earth should we diminish these rich learning environments by focusing on untried, one-size-fits-all nationalized experiments like Common Core? We shouldn’t because it is just crazy to do so. I believe it’s in the best interests of our students to immediately stop implementing Common Core. It’s a remotely managed reform measure fraught with problems. Let’s look to model programs in Delaware’s own commendable schools for guidance on how to improve the performance of schools and students that are struggling. We should halt Common Core’s race to the middle and allow local schools who best understand their students to engage in creating Delaware’s educational solutions. We should focus on what it is that engages students and keeps them interested and in school, rather than on high stakes educational experiments written by “corporatecrats” who don’t have an understanding of our children or as recently discovered, children at all. Simply put, I strongly recommend we join the ranks of the majority of states that require “evidence-based” practices and have turned down Common Core.

Since our students are returning to class in less than a week, our Governor and state education leaders should immediately be contacted and told they need to put a moratorium on Common Core. If they fail to take the initiative, our Legislative leaders should be unified in demanding an immediate moratorium on Common Core. God only gives one chance to educate a child,…. and each and every single one of our children deserve better than what they’ll get from Common Core….

Signed:

Oregon state rep. Dennis Richardson (delawarized by kavips.supereditor.com)

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