Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letter to the Tampa Bay Times - Common Core Standards

    This letter was written in response to the Tampa Bay Times' constantly dismissing all objectors' concerns about the Common Core Standards as coming from members of the Tea Party.  I have nothing at all against the Tea Party and what they stand for, but I'm not a member of that organization and neither are many of the other people who have voiced objections to these awful Standards.  I don't know if they'll print the letter - it got a bit long - but either way, here it is.

September 25, 2013
To: Tampa Bay Times

Common Core Standards

The people objecting to the Common Core Standards are members of many different political parties including Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents.  The TB Times does a disservice to its readers by constantly referring to all objectors as “Tea Party members”. 
In addition to the valid criticisms of being top-down, one-size-fits all, un-Constitutional, and extremely costly, many of us are very concerned with the poor quality of the Standards themselves.  We’ve arrived at these opinions through carefully reading these Standards as well as studying plentiful commentaries and articles written by professionals who give thorough and reasonable explanations for their concerns.  I agree with the experts in Math when they complain that CC puts us two years behind other countries, for example, when I can read for myself that students are not expected to achieve proficiency at adding and subtracting using the Standard Algorithm until the 4th grade. (CCSS.Math.Content.4.NBT.B.4).   This isn’t surprising given the materials and methodology pushed by the CC-driven text books and assessments, especially when one examines some of the bizarre “alternative” algorithms taking up more and more time in CC classrooms across the nation.  Far from providing deeper understanding of Math concepts, this is leading to frustration and academic disengagement even in previously very good students who loved Math.  When these students’ college-educated parents admit to being baffled by what comes home in the name of 2nd grade Math, it is obvious that something has gone seriously wrong with the schools – not with the parents.  The Language Arts CC Standards are also very problematic and fly in the face of decades of research examining the knowledge necessary to succeed in college or anywhere else.
Many of today’s CC objectors are old enough to remember having our concerns over OBE, Whole Language and Discovery Math dismissed by the news media as the paranoia of The Religious Right and other “loonies” back in the 90’s.  Then we had to listen to this same media complain about their loss of readership, the decline in literacy and the breathtaking lack of skills and knowledge in our workforce.  The fact is that there are reasonable people who have valid doubts that this latest fad is any better than the long line of previous, now discredited trends.  It is time that parents’ concerns are taken seriously – and I mean that parents should be given the right to choose a different course for their children when the public school system – again – goes off on one of its ill-considered tangents.  We need parents’ choice.

Katherine Livermore, Secretary
Independent Voices for Better Education