Several school districts across the country have decided to dump national Common Core curriculum and testing mandates, use better standards, and share them with other districts. One standards expert has volunteered to help them.
Sandra Stotsky is a professor at the University of Arkansas and a lead author on what many consider the best standards in the country—the former standards of Massachusetts, her home state. She says school boards are reacting to pressure from parents and teachers.
“They are hearing too many complaints from teachers as well as parents, so they know there are far more serious problems with this ‘reform’ than with other reform efforts,” she said.
Common Core is a list of what tests and curriculum must contain in every grade in math and English. Forty-five states replaced their standards with Common Core in 2010 under pressure from the Obama administration.
Floating New Ideas
In October 2013, Manchester, New Hampshire dropped Common Core.
“They decided to develop local standards because of the numerous parents who attended school board meetings demanding something better,” said Ann Marie Banfield, Education Liaison at New Hampshire-based Cornerstone Policy Research.
In Manchester, the Core will be used as a “floor,” Banfield said, but what that means is unclear. “We don’t know exactly, since the final Manchester Standards have not been fully developed.”
In Tennessee, the Bradley County school district also rejected Common Core. Bradley County is east of Chattanooga, a picturesque area along Tennessee’s border with Georgia.
“They haven’t piloted [Common Core] anywhere,” said Charlie Rose, chairman of the Bradley County Board of Education. “They just said, ‘Here it is.’ And in Tennessee they’re just shoving it down our throats, as far as I’m concerned.”
Rose is a retired teacher, with 40 years’ experience.
“Teachers are getting torn and pulled in different directions,” said Rose. “What is the big hurry? We’re going to educate our children whether they do these standards or not.” He said mandates like Common Core narrow the curriculum and are unrealistic given kids’ different needs and abilities.
“We should be introducing our children to everything we possibly can through the twelfth grade, and then they can start specializing in college and when they get out of school,” Rose said. “I don’t think every kid needs to go to college. I’m sorry. They need to get education beyond twelve years, but it may be in a specialty like welding, or vocational courses” such as computer-aided design.
Kids Flock to Non-Common Core District
The Germantown, Wisconsin school board decided to reject Common Core and create its own standards. Germantown is northwest of Milwaukee and enrolls many students from the larger city because the state allows open enrollment between districts.
“Since we’ve done this in December, we’ve had over 225 applications for open enrollment, which is unheard of. That tells us we’re doing the right thing,” said board member Brian Medved.
“We had a top-performing district in the state,” Medved said, “and we felt we had the standard and we had the curriculum. Common Core was going to be a step backward for us.”
The district plans to put their standards and curriculum online for any district to use.
Districts Are Next Frontier
The next frontier for a nationwide movement to overturn Common Core is in local school districts, Stotsky said.
“Uninformed state Boards of Education voted in two sets of standards that are far from being internationally benchmarked, research-based, and rigorous,” Stotsky said. “They were promised internationally benchmarked standards from [Common Core] but didn’t get them. Their votes to adopt Common Core’s standards should be declared null and void because … the product didn’t meet the specifications they were promised.”
She recommends local boards reject Common Core and set up committees to draft better ones, let parents opt their children out of any Common Core tests, and tell teachers to abandon Common Core curricula.
“The government does not know better than the parents how to educate kids,” Rose said. And they’re taking more and more decision-making away from locals and putting it down from the federal government. And there’s no way they know more what our children need than we do locally.”
Image by Illmicrofono Oggiono.