Did you ever notice that, for Common Core opponents, everyone is the enemy – except other opponents of public education? In this opinion piece from today’s Nashua Telegraph, Nashua’s dedicated educators are the enemy who, for some reason, are conspiring to make our kids illiterate and mislead their parents. According to Common Core opponents, Nashua’s educators have that in common with all other New Hampshire educators. But read this oped by Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad, also in today’s Telegraph, and see if you think he’s conspiring against your kids. Between the two viewpoints, the choice is easy.
Although I’ve critiqued an earlier version of Ann Marie Banfield’s oped as it appeared in other papers and, apparently in response, she’s made some corrections, I’ve commented further below to highlight the errors in this slightly modified version.
In reply to the Nashua School District on the verge of embracing Common Core standards, one needs to understand that those supporting this new education reform effort tend to leave out critical information parents need to know.
Nashua is not “on the verge” of anything. The district has always been guided by New Hampshire’s educational standards and is now into its second year of implementing the State’s latest standards which incorporate the Common Core.
The only thing “those supporting” leave out are the false assertions opponents like this author rely on.
The Common Core standards are a set of national standards in math and English. New national science standards are the next up for consideration.
One would think that a set of national standards that identify what a child should learn in each grade level would be fully embraced by everyone around the country. Instead, what we are seeing unfold is just the opposite. Growing opposition to Common Core standards is coming from parents, teachers, and administrators.
Administrators? New Hampshire administrators are solidly behind the new standards because they support more learning for the kids. And teachers who have implemented the standards in their classrooms consider them a success and are strongly in support.
Common Core standards in math and English had great promise. Many of us who research education noted the low academic standards in states like New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s academic standards developed under former Gov. John Lynch were some of the worst in the nation, and something needed to be done.
The author is an advocate, not an academic researcher. In fact, teachers observe that the new standards are much like New Hampshire’s previous standards but are more coherent because the learning is organized around requiring a deeper understanding of fewer topics rather than exposing students to a long list of lessons on separate reading or math calculations.
And New Hampshire’s educational results are among the best in the country – and, new results will show, the world – so our standards couldn’t have been all that bad.
(Here is a post I did a couple of years ago to provide data about the quality of our schools when all the same folks who now oppose the Common Core were saying that New Hampshire public education was so bad that we should shut down the New Hampshire Department of Education, end compulsory school attendance and use vouchers to educate our kids in private schools. Why would we now consider these same folks credible advisors on setting educational standards for our public school kids?)
I’ve attended several presentations by school administrators and the New Hampshire Department of Education on why these new Common Core standards are good for our children. Unfortunately, these same individuals never tell the audience the significant problems too.
In previous versions of this opinion piece, the author misrepresented a Pinkerton Academy administrator and he took her to task for it. (I quote him here in my assessment of the previous version of this piece.)
The Telegraph reported that 65 percent of high school graduates enroll in remedial classes upon entering college. This is an illiteracy problem.
This sentence is incorrect and possibly intentionally misleading. It could be a reference to this 2012 Telegraph report on apparently high remediation specifically for Nashua High students attending Nashua Community College. The Telegraph did a nuanced follow-up last July on whether remediation rates were really as bad as they at first appeared. Far from “never telling” the facts about remediation, Nashua school administrators were featured in both stories working hard to address the issue.
There is surely a lot to be done to improve educational results in Nashua and other New Hampshire schools, but it’s hard imagine basing a strategy on advice from advocates like Ms. Banfield.
Superintendent Mark Conrad said during a meeting, “Education: It’s no longer about conveying facts & figures.” The administrators went on to present information on new reform efforts taking place in the Nashua schools that have been proven to lower academic achievement. How do you improve literacy by de-emphasizing facts and knowledge? How do you improve the quality of education by following the Federal Government guidelines that has proven to lower academic achievement?
This assertion, as you would imagine, bears no relationship to what Nashua administrators said in the school board meeting, which I attended and recorded. In fact, the author misconstrues Mr. Conrad’s remarks in the same way she misrepresented Mr. Harper at Pinkerton.
No New Hampshire educator ever asserts that knowledge of facts and figures are not needed in life. What Mr. Conrad and his staff did convey was that they want to go beyond facts and figures and give their students the skills they need for life long learning.
As a parent of a nursing student in college, facts and memorization are a huge part of the nursing program. This de-emphasis on facts and knowledge could explain why so many students drop out of these competitive programs. They simply are not prepared for that kind of challenge. There is nothing good about adding to the illiteracy problem we have in the United States and yet that seems to be what they are now selling parents through the implementation of Common Core.
The author is off on a wild fantasy here. I’ll bet her daughter is a good nurse because she has learned to think and reason and because she can use the concepts behind the facts she has learned, just as Mr. Conrad and his staff are teaching their students to do.
There are many more flaws with the Common Core math standards that are never mentioned by proponents. For instance, if your school district follows the Common Core standards, your children will be one year behind their peers in top-performing countries by the time they reach fourth grade. They will be two years behind by the time they reach high school. This is according to the only mathematician who sat on the Common Core Math Validation Committee who refused to sign off on the standards, Dr. James Milgram. In other words, the national expert in mathematics and academic standards does not believe these are the best standards for our children.
Dr. Milgram is traveling the country campaigning against the standards, as he has against all standards other than drilling kids on computation. Among the hundreds of mathematicians involved in writing, reviewing and validating the new standards, Dr. Milgram is one of two who aren’t satisfied with the result. Here’s the background. I think you’ll agree that we don’t want to put Dr. Milgram in charge of educating our New Hampshire kids.
The New Hampshire. commissioner of education said these standards are voluntary, meaning schools do not have to settle for poor standards. The school board in Alton just voted down the Common Core standards and is now working to elevate its academic standards.
Fortunately for the kids, nothing has changed in Alton classrooms as a result of that vote by the Alton School Board. And Alton teachers are now speaking out saying that, based on their classroom experience, the new standards are not a radical departure but a good step forward.
There are a few states that rejected the Common Core standards and went to work on developing the best standards in the country. This means that if New Hampshire continues down this path of low quality standards, our children will be at a disadvantage when compared to students in those states with higher standards.
Without quite saying so, I think the author is suggesting that New Hampshire would be better off adopting Texas’ creationist standards. I would disagree. One of the many benefits of the Common Core is that it liberates the nation’s schools from the influence of the Texas Board of Education on textbook publishers.
Parents and teachers around the country are starting to fight for better quality standards for their children. There is no reason the students in Nashua deserve anything less.
Ann Marie Banfield, of Bedford, is an education liason for Cornerstone Action. She provides research, testimony and advocacy on issues impacting education.