To The Daily Sun,
This letter is in response to Rep. Jane Cormier's recent submission regarding Common Core state education standards. Rep. Cormier made several assertions that are misleading at best and downright inaccurate at worst. As a former member of the N.H. Professional Standards Board and retired educator, I think your readers deserve a more complete picture.
Common Core has been, and will remain, a state-based program. Each state retains full and complete authority to implement Common Core standards for its schools and can withdraw from teaching Common Core standards at any time. It is a set of standards, not a curriculum that is being forced into our schools. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) explained it like this: in football, one example of a standard is a team needs to advance the ball downfield 10 yards for a first down; a curriculum is the playbook each team uses to accomplish that goal.
Assessment is one component of Common Core, as Rep. Cormier states, but it is not its sole purpose. The true purpose of Common Core is to update educational standards so that students can fully engage in our 21st century economy by thinking critically and solving problems. Rep. Cormier also suggests that increased computerization to analyze and grade Common Core tests will cost taxpayers money. Even if this were the case, increased access to technology in the classroom is a sound investment in a student's education. Students will be more capable of entering the workforce or enrolling in college upon graduation from high school, lessening the likelihood that they will need to rely on government-funded entitlement programs, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars.
The claim that Common Core standards are less rigorous than current standards is not borne out by the facts. Common Core standards require teachers to instill a deeper knowledge and understanding of the curriculum to students than current standards in many states. For example, by third grade students will be expected to be able to multiply and divide within 100 and understand the relationship between products and quotients. They must also be able to identify nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in sentences and explain how each contributes to overall sentence structure. Any third grader who can do all that is in pretty good shape. Because these rigorous standards are "common", students who move to another Common Core state will be on a more level playing field than is currently the case.
Rep. Cormier seems to think that students will be chained to a desk reading federal regulations or government manuals for hours on end. In reality, informational texts will not "take over" literature as part of the English curriculum. Common Core standards require that at least 50 percent of a student's reading curriculum come from works of the great American and English literature texts, including "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Pride and Prejudice". Common Core examples of "informational texts" include Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America", speeches by American presidents and the Declaration of Independence. The purpose of teaching students to read and analyze informational texts is to prepare them for thinking critically about original material, which is about 80 percent of the reading and writing required in the workplace.
Common Core does not "data mine" our schools, nor does it retrieve and disseminate students' private information. States retain private information about students now and will continue to do so under Common Core. What is sent to the federal government are data related to overall student body performance and progress on assessment testing, very similar to the current reporting requirements under No Child Left Behind.
Common Core is not a "national curriculum," nor does it attempt to subvert the authority of states and local school districts to teach its students. Rep. Cormier's town of Alton, just like the other towns in Belknap County and statewide, will continue to be able to determine school curriculum (it retains control of the "playbook" as Gov. Huckabee would put it), it simply needs to ensure it is teaching to the standards adopted under Common Core.
Rep. Cormier is under the impression that Common Core is a progressive "power grab," an attempt to subvert local control and implement a federal brainwashing of our students. The truth is that Common Core is a voluntary state-based, non-partisan, performance-driven step forward toward educating our students to prosper and thrive in our modern world. Common Core is backed by, among others, the current governors of New Jersey, Iowa, Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Idaho (all Republicans), as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.
Passion about our children's futures is valuable, but distributing misinformation about Common Core standards does not help parents, teachers, and voters come to an informed opinion on how best to teach our kids.