Teachers are right to question Common Core [Letter]

June 26, 2014

I read with interest the commentary by Emily Blumenauer about her thoughts on teachers who, as she put it, whine about the Common Core ("Quit complaining about Common Core," June 16). As a 34-year teaching veteran, I found her beliefs insulting, demeaning and self-serving.

I believe the Common Core was developed by a privileged, highly-educated, snobby, ethnocentric conglomeration of corporate elitists and some ivory towered university professors who had little or no actual experience in the public school classroom. They and the politicians they influenced pretty much then gave carte blanche to the Pearson Education Testing Corporation which has made millions (if not billions now) of dollars paid for by my (and your) taxes.

What is so ridiculous about the Common Core is there is no differentiation, at least right now, between Advanced Placement classes, regular education and special education. It is not age-appropriate, nor is it developmentally appropriate. It is being pushed by those who would like to see the public school system privatized to a "for profit" system. One need only look at the "for profit" prison system to see the problems with that.

Ms. Blumenauer's commentary shows little knowledge of the history of the attempted corporate take-over of our public schools. As a teacher in the public school system, I have noticed that every time the economy takes a downturn, politicians need to blame something. Perish the thought they created it. It started with Ronald Reagan's "Nation At Risk" and then has escalated to today.

Student learning objectives are not new. I wrote them for every class I taught in the 1980s. The ones I wrote were based on the students I had, the curriculum we used and fitting the needs of my particular students. I used my knowledge of educational pedagogy, Bloom's Taxonomy (among other educational philosophy and research) and data I kept on my own students. I published them, they were easy to understand and I shared them with parents. They worked.

Yes, change is difficult. You would think educational experts would know that and not simply foist an entire nation's curriculum on its teaching corps in a period of a couple years. The Common Core should have been adopted over a 13-year period, starting with kindergarten and then adopting each subsequent year, perfecting the lower grades until going to the higher. Materials could be written, not slopped together as so much of it has. I'm aghast at some of the garbage being hacked on the Internet. Teachers would have time to go through it, absorb it, teach it and find out what works and what doesn't. After all, one tenet of instructional design is to monitor and adjust.

Some of the logic in the commentary would not pass muster in my junior English class. Ms. Blumenauer spouts change yet then tells teachers to fall back on their old lesson plans "to fill in the gaps." By the way, what are the gaps? To fall back on lesson plans is also assuming teachers are all teaching the same classes from year to year. Our teaching corps is made up of thousands of new teachers who don't have lesson plans to "fall back on."

Teaching is hard, but come on. Teachers make millions of decisions a week in a classroom and billions a quarter? It takes over two weeks for a million seconds to tick by, 19 years for a billion seconds. You could also argue that teachers have so many decisions to make they wouldn't have time to do anything else, let alone plan new Common Core lessons given to them.

But the part of the piece that really was mean-spirited was the ending. "We don't want you here." Wow. What Ms. Blumenauer is saying is that "we" (whoever that is) don't want educators to question, to voice concern, to fight for what they think is right for their students, not what the corporate elitists want for students of which they have no knowledge. I don't want a teaching corps that blindly follows a curriculum the federal government writes for their students.

What is really needed? A change in our tax structure to bring in revenue to revamp our educational system by paying teachers to write standards, benchmarks and objectives with curriculum to match. We need to scaffold the curriculum by starting at the bottom and working to the top over a period of several years. Eventually, we could take what is successful and create a Common Core curriculum that works for all.

I am sorry that my letter's tone is angry, but so was Ms. Blumenauer's commentary. I felt like I needed to defend my colleagues, and I hope readers will take my letter in that spirit.

Jennifer Kelly, Stanwood, Wash.

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