Md. parent rambles about Common Core standards

Tony Piacente of Waldorf, Md., wrote an opinion piece in Southern Maryland Newspapers in which he criticizes the Common Core, saying, “It’s time parents got involved in their children’s education to see what is happening to them with the Common Core standardized testing. Peruse what is being taught to them and how they are being tested. Parents, research the facts and stop relying on the government and media.”

The essay itself is organized into paragraphs—why, I have no idea. Every sentence, whether in one paragraph or the next, isn’t linked to the one before it. Each pokes a new criticism at the standards without talking about any of them specifically.

I, too, would like to see more parents, especially those of minority children, take a more proactive role in their children’s education. But that’s where my support of such opinion pieces ends.

From what I can read, the only true statement in the piece is that the Common Core, as a set of standards, wasn’t developed the way many other standards, namely those sanctioned by the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, have been developed. And although there are many such processes for standards development, none of them any better than the others, we came to the ultimate conclusion that it didn’t matter much where the standards came from, what process was used to develop them, or any of that.

What mattered was whether they were good or bad for our students.

Giving primary sources a good college try

As far as not relying on media or politicians, I feel the same way, though it’s impossible for most people to get information about anything that hasn’t been filtered through at least one media outlet. However, we can find more primary sources, I suppose: A recent survey in major cities that have adopted the Common Core found that the majority of teachers there, who were using the Common Core in their actual classrooms, thought the standards were an improvement over the previous standards.

And we don’t have to rely on media or politicians when we look at a report in Utah from a group of education experts. They say directly:

A team of education experts charged with reviewing the Common Core has determined the math and English language standards are an improvement over Utah’s previous standards and will likely advance the quality of public education in the state.

That same report also criticized the level of professional development provided for teachers, particularly in math, who were charged with implementing the Common Core. And this is a problem because serious challenges lie ahead with the Common Core and the tests from PARCC. The more time parents waste talking about the process by which the standards were developed, the funding behind them, or any other irrelevant topic related to the Common Core, the less focused actual teachers and education experts can be on educating our children.

Please stop wasting their time and let them teach. Our kids—yours and mine—won’t learn anything if teachers haven’t got the time to teach because they have to address parental concerns that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

In addition, most teachers in a recent survey thought the tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, were better than the tests previously used for state and federal accountability purposes. This was based on a survey from Teach Plus, a nonprofit focused on keeping good teachers in urban classrooms, and printed in the Hechinger Report:

A large majority, 79 percent, of the teachers surveyed said that these tests were better than what their states used to have, while only five percent said their old state tests were better. In Boston, 72 percent of teachers said PARCC was better than Massachusetts’s old tests, which have long been regarded as some of the best in the country.

I agree that kids take too many state- and district-mandated standardized tests, but that’s a different question from those being brought up by Mr Piacente. Let’s keep our focus on the standards themselves and our real classrooms, as one group of parents in Mississippi does, presenting both pros and cons.

You see, I, too, advise parents to stop listening to media, bloggers, and politicians, and to start listening to educators working in the trenches while other parents and politicians have their little debates. My interest is focused on the people who are working very hard to advance our children’s education, not on people who think they have some kind of right to tell our public schools what to teach our kids.

This latter group seems to think, somehow, that they’re experts because they once went to school, are doing fine in life, and can’t recognize how teachers are now teaching math. Before criticizing, these self-declared experts on what help parents, schools, and teachers need to teach our children right should maybe think about walking a mile in those teachers’ shoes—not just in their parent shoes, leading just a few kids, but a teacher’s shoes, which walk, as part of a lifelong career, a path for many diverse students to follow.

The majority of teachers feel the new tests and the standards they measure in the Common Core represent an improvement. Thanks to Bill Gates for the money to help develop them, but they now belong to the public for use in our schools. And at least we’re moving in the right direction, which is much more than I can say for the plan where people in each state developed and tested their own standards.

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.