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What is the Common Core debate really about?

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The Common Core State Standards, adopted by our State Board of Education in 2010 as an enhancement to our College and Career Ready Standards, are an important step forward for our kids.  However, the new standards are under attack from the right as a federal intrusion. so we will provide some information about why the new standards are important. In addition, everything we have posted on the Common Core is available at the menu item, above (here). Bill and others are available to speak on these issues when and where needed.

The Common Core State Standards are English and math goals for what students should learn in each grade.  For example: A fifth grades student should be able to “write opinion pieces…supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

Here are the standards on-line.  They’re written in plain English and you can see that these are good goals for New Hampshire students.  And here is a great factual summary FAQ by the Concord Monitor.  And the Heckinger Report (a nonprofit education news unit of Columbia University Teachers College, Columbia University) has a great Common Core home page leading to balanced stories about everything you would want to know.

Hundreds of educators and researchers worked for years writing the standards in response to a call from the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Governors and educators across the political spectrum wanted to set consistent expectations that would prepare our kids to compete globally whether they came from Massachusetts or Mississippi or New Hampshire.

The governors were committed to maintaining control in each state and school district.  So the standards do not dictate curriculum or lesson plans.  Curriculum is the still district policy as it has always been in New Hampshire.  Lesson plans are still the teachers’ responsibility.

New Hampshire has no viable alternative to the Common Core State Standards and no capacity to develop one.  Nor should we consider the prospect.  The standards are critically important to U.S. public education and New Hampshire educators have committed thoroughly to their implementation.  At this point, after years of work, a fair number of school districts have the new standards in place in virtually all of their classrooms.  A larger number are well into the process. And some, like Manchester, have not gone far yet.

The U.S. Department of Education has promoted the standards forcefully, but the NHDOE commitment is independent of that.  DOE has integrated the standards into all aspects of our education strategy.  Disruption would be a disaster for our schools.

It’s important to point out how enthusiastic New Hampshire teachers are after implementing the standards in their classrooms.  Here is what our educators are saying about their experience.  This is consistent with a recent national survey of 20,000 teachers in Common Core states.

There are no firm dollar numbers available yet but the experience so far is that the cost is low.  Here is the White Mountains Regional School District leadership talking about their experience, including the modest cost of implementation.To sample the arguments of those opposing the new standards, read this recent piece from Alton Rep. Jane Cormier and one from a different writer in the Portsmouth Herald.Here is a post about the anti-Common Core vote by the Alton School Board and why this kind of action will probably have little effect.

The Union Leader had this report on the Manchester version of the debate.

And here is a good collection of “myths about the Common Core standards” and responses from the web site of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The ACSD also provides a factual response to opponents here.  And, from the conservative National Review, here is yet another debunking of the anti-Common Core arguments.  And here’s one from the Fordham Institute debunking the assertions of the Pioneer Institute’s Jamie Gass, who is a favorite of New Hampshire Common Core opponents.  New Hampshire’s Common Core opponents have yet to make a credible case, as shown by this oped full of errors.

The Common Core State Standards is a big subject and the debate  – particularly opponents’ criticisms – can be complex and mystifying.  Most of us will never untangle all that or even try.  That’s why the best preparation for decision making is to read this overview in the Concord Monitor, read the standards themselves and listen to our educators as a context for listening to advocates on all sides.


2 Comments

  1. wgersen says:

    While the right is opposed to the CCSS for libertarian reasons and– especially in the South– for anti-evolution reasons, there are many progressive educators who are opposed to the testing regimen which is linked inextricably to the CCSS by the Federal government. Race to the Top (RTTT) links federal funding to a requirement that states link student, school, and teacher performance to high stakes assessments. NH negotiated hard to minimize the impact of the tests on teacher performance and is rolling out the CCSS and the CCSS tests the right. The national pushback on CCSS is a reaction to the way many states botched the RTTT grant application process and a reaction to some State boards and urban school districts who are controlled by “reformers” who want to convert public schools into for-profit charters. NY, for example, administered the tests last Spring before teachers had an opportunity to prepare students for them and used the universally poor test results to declare that schools were “failing”. I think that NH teachers would be singing a different tune about the CCSS if the State DOE gave the tests last May, began publishing the results, and announcing publicly that the public schools were “failing” based on the test results. NH is fortunate to have good leadership! The concluding chapter in Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error describes this whole process better than I just did.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      I agree, Wayne. In New Hampshire, the link between testing and school and teacher performance is very loose. In fact, for non-Title I schools, there is no required link at all. And even in Title I schools, student performance is defined more broadly that “test scores.”

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