|Derek Redelman, Indiana Chamber of Commerce|
Derek's a good guy and has been a loyal soldier in the fight for education reform. But his message is flat out wrong. There are moderates in both parties who are against Common Core. Andrea Neal, a teacher and an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review, penned an excellent article about why Indiana should drop out of Common Core and retain the state's own standards which even most Common Core supporters admit are superior. Neal is hardly a right-wing zealot. What's more even Glenda Ritz, the Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction is lukewarm on Common Core, wanting to study it more.
Meanwhile Stand for Children, an organization which advocates education reform including charter schools, and the right of those schools to experiment and make decisions without national and state mandates hanging over their heads, has received grants to run ads in favor of Common Core.
Both the Redelman, on behalf of the Chamber, and Stand for Children, are making extremely poor political choices in waging this political battle. Many of their opponents in this battle are their friends, education reformers who feel passionately that we shouldn't toss away our well-regarded education standards for national standards mandated through the carrot and stick of federal money. Whether one agrees with them or not, those opponents have legitimate arguments on their side. In the next battle, will those education reformers trust the Chamber or Stand for Children? Many will certainly not. The Chamber and Stand for Children might well win the battle for Common Core, but the political price they will pay in going against their education reform friends will be permanent. You know, sometime it's better to remain neutral than to turn your political guns on your friends.
I leave with some comments from Neal's excellent column on the subject:
Plenty of good reasons exist for Indiana to drop out of the Common Core, the national initiative to standardize what is taught in all public schools throughout the country.
It takes away local control. It reduces teacher flexibility. It substitutes the judgment of anonymous educrats for that of expert math and English teachers. It’s too focused on career readiness at the expense of learning for learning’s sake.
But the biggest reason to oppose Common Core has nothing to do with policy considerations and everything to do with quality. The standards are inferior to what Indiana already had in place. They are hard to understand. Yet teacher training, course materials and student testing must all be based on them.
One need only read the new standards to spot some glaring problems. They’re wordy, redundant and poorly organized. Some of the language leaves your head spinning. For example, Grade 6 students are to “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” by using “words, phrases and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.”
Compare that with the clarity and specificity of the old Massachusetts state standards, which were considered the nation’s best: “Write brief research reports with clear focus and supporting detail” or “write a short explanation of a process that includes a topic statement, supporting details and a conclusion.”
Or Indiana’s: “Write informational pieces of several paragraphs that: engage the interest of the reader; state a clear purpose; develop the topic with supporting details and precise language; conclude with a detailed summary linked to the purpose of the composition.”
Advocates say national standards are necessary to ensure students have the same foundation of skills to compete in a global economy. If this is true, don’t we want national standards that are clear, concise and easy for teachers to implement?
Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita at the University of Arkansas and national guru in academic standards, gives the Common Core a C- or D+. Stotsky testified Jan. 16 before the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development in favor of withdrawing from Common Core.
Her biggest complaint? The standards expect English teachers to spend half their reading time on informational text rather than literature. In other words, instead of reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a class might read an article about Shakespeare’s life.
This is a mistake, Stotsky says, because critical thinking skills are developed by reading, analyzing and discussing complex literature. “When you learned how to read The Scarlet Letter you were ready for college level material,” she explains.