WHAT OTHERS SAY: Paranoia about Common Core is a lousy way to fix schools

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 | 12:52 p.m. CDT

Imagine a school conference that begins like this:

The teacher explains to the parent the progress being made by his child, based on grades of various tests and homework. Those results stem from a curriculum posted on the school’s website for all parents to see.

Want to know more about the common core standards?

The Missourian published a three-part series last fall about the Common Core State Standards. Digital members can read the series here. Non-members can download a Kindle version of the series for $0.99 on Amazon.

The parent gets angry. Really angry.

“Tell the truth!” he or she screams at the teacher, who tries to calmly explain the rationale for the curriculum and grading.

Not satisfied, the parent strikes out again.

“Are you using my kid as a science experiment? Why are you trying to control his thoughts?”

This was an actual scene the other night at the Lindbergh School District as a supervisor with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education tried to explain the various elements of the new Common Core curriculum standards being adopted in Missouri and 45 other states.

The anger is being fueled by conspiracy theorists, including some in the Missouri legislature, who see the common core movement as some evil federal takeover of schools, rather than the thoughtful and bipartisan attempt that it is to raise standards and unify them across state lines so that the United States can do a better job of competing in a global economy.

For too long, schools from district to district and state to state have had wildly different standards and tests that make it harder for some students to compete and harder for parents and educators to get a handle on how well schools are performing.

The bipartisan effort to develop Common Core State Standards in reading, writing and math grew out of a National Governors Association initiative. The standards were developed over a several-year period of much public discussion at the local, state and federal level.

Missouri’s Board of Education adopted them in 2010, and the state has been working with local districts to implement them ever since.

The meetings held at Lindbergh and seven other sites statewide last week were an attempt to appease Republican lawmakers who have been trying to put the brakes on the Common Core Standards. Some, including Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, argue there hasn’t been enough information made available about the standards.

To them, we say: Perhaps you shouldn’t have skipped your child’s school conference.

The Missouri Board of Education holds open meetings. It’s been very public about its process. Governors in nearly every state have been touting them. There have been no secrets about the Common Core.

Fact is, a few Republican politicians, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have decided Common Core is the new “Obamacare,” a wedge to be used to divide a nation that seems to be easy to divide these days.

The Glenn Becks of the world are telling their gullible radio listeners that the Common Core State Standards are part of a federal and international socialist brainwashing plot. Mr. Cruz, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, likely doesn’t believe that, but when he signs a letter asking the federal Department of Education to delay its implementation, he sends a signal to those motivated right-wing activists that he’s one of them.

Education policy should be above such low-brow political antics, but, unfortunately, it’s not.

The good news about the Missouri legislature is that a bill to block Common Core State Standards is unlikely to pass. Rural superintendents still hold enough sway to keep lawmakers from extremely conservative districts from supporting measures that will damage local schools.

The enemy here is not the standards, and it’s not the educators trying to find a way to prepare our children for the competitive global economy.

It’s people who believe that shouting down a bureaucrat at a public meeting accomplishes anything. Ever.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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