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My Turn: Common Core: the path to mediocrity

Re “Common Core is good news for students” (Sunday Monitor Forum, Sept. 29):

One needs to understand that those supporting the Common Core education reform effort tend to leave out critical information parents need to know. Bill Duncan, founder of Advancing New Hampshire Public Education, is no exception.

The Common Core standards are a set of national standards in math and English. New national science standards are the next up for consideration.

One would think that a set of national standards that identify what a child should learn in each grade level would be fully embraced by everyone across the country. Instead, we are seeing just the opposite. Growing opposition to Common Core standards is coming from parents, teachers, administrators and teachers’ unions.

Common Core standards in math and English had great promise. Many of us who research education noted the low academic standards in states like New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s academic standards developed under former governor John Lynch were some of the worst in the nation, and something needed to be done.

Significant problems

I’ve attended several presentations by school administrators and the New Hampshire Department of Education on why these new Common Core standards are good for our children. Unfortunately, these same individuals never tell the audience the significant problems too.

One dean recently told a group of parents that they are going to focus less on teaching facts and even mentioned biology facts that would be eliminated at Pinkerton Academy. One parent wisely pointed out that she was concerned those facts could be on an SAT exam and then what?

As a parent of a nursing student in college, I know that facts and memorization are a huge part of the nursing program. This de-emphasis on facts and knowledge could explain why so many students drop out of these competitive programs. They simply are not prepared for that kind of challenge. There is nothing good about adding to the illiteracy problem in the United States, yet that seems to be what they are now selling parents through the implementation of Common Core.

There are more flaws with the Common Core math standards never mentioned by proponents like Duncan, the New Hampshire commissioner of Education and school administrators. For instance, if your school district follows the Common Core standards, your children will be one year behind their peers in top-performing countries by the time they reach fourth grade. They will be two years behind by the time they reach high school. This is according to the only mathematician who sat on the Common Core Math Validation Committee and refused to sign off on the standards, Dr. James Milgram. In other words, the national expert in mathematics and academic standards does not believe these are the best standards for our children.

The New Hampshire commissioner of education has said that these standards are voluntary, meaning that schools do not have to settle for poor standards. The school board in Alton just voted down the Common Core standards and is now working to elevate its academic standards.

There are a few states that rejected the Common Core standards and went to work on developing the best standards in the country. This means that if New Hampshire continues down this path of low quality standards, our children will be at a disadvantage when compared to students in states that developed higher quality standards.

Parents and teachers around the country are starting to fight for better quality standards for their children. There is no reason the students in New Hampshire deserve anything less.

Cornerstone has called upon Gov. Maggie Hassan to begin a public debate on the Common Core standards. We want to see an honest debate that lays out all of the information. Let’s look at all sides of this issue and decide whether we want to elevate the standards or continue down this path to mediocrity.

(Ann Marie Banfield is the education liaison for Cornerstone Action.)

Legacy Comments10

So let me get this straight. The assumption is that CC has higher standards. I say assumption because those of us that actually know what is in CC know better. At any rate, the CC has higher standards say. Well, for me if you are having a heck of a time teaching those lower standards, what makes anybody think that by raising the bar, the kids will automatically be able to reach that bar when they could not reach the basic bar? They have the same issues folks, poverty, deadbeat parents, etc. CC is not about standards it is about teaching methods. It has not be tested, teachers will have a hard time implementing it, and guess what folks, WE ARE NOT FINLAND!

I concur with Ed_Doc's opinion on this hit piece by Cornerstone' Banfield. It is remarkably fact-free, and leaves largely unstated what Banfield would put in its place. Contrary to Banfield's claim that Common Core standards represent a "path to mediocrity", a 2010 study by the Thomas Fordham Institute found the new standards to be higher than those of 39 states and the same as those in the other 11 states. The standards are similar to those of other high-achieving nations, such as Finland and Japan. Banfield decries a supposed "deemphasis on facts and knowledge" in the Common Core standards, because she and most conservatives treat students as passive, empty vessels into which discrete parcels of knowledge are poured. Of course, this regard for facts and knowledge only goes so far. When it comes to topics like evolution, climate change, or sex education, their regard for facts is less apparent. Banfield and Cornerstone support empty slogans like "back to basics", "competition", and policies designed to weaken, not strengthen public schools, such as vouchers that would siphon off scarce tax dollars to private and religious schools. Distorting the Common Core standards is yet another strategy by the right to diminish and weaken anything with the name 'public' in it.

C'mon Bruce! You wouldn't want cornerstone's attack of the common core to be weighed down by facts now, would you?

For any teacher to be supporting this phoney baloney change is indeed the Fox guarding the Hen house

Poorly written column.... No references to opinion statements like the NH standards were some of the worst in the nation.... Maybe if the writer had gone to a school with common core, she would have learned better critical thinking

Critical thinking is only helpful if the people designing the lessons, the program and the conclusions did not create a product by circular reasoning.

"One dean told a group of parents?" What dean, Ann Marie? What group of parents? James Milgram was not, of course, the only mathematician on the Common Core Validation Committee. There were actually eight math experts on the Committee, and six endorsed the standards. And the committee that actually wrote the standards included over a dozen academic mathematicians, including its chairman, a mathematician from Harvard. And another 50 helped write or review the standards. But none of this really matters. If Alton or any other district wants to enhance the standards for its single school, they should do it.

Well yeah, Duncan is not going to tell you how far we will be behind in math. You will find out when your kid applies to college and gets turned down because they did not take calculus. Have to take a remedial course. He also will not tell you how the teachers will be evaluated. Yep, the folks who brought you the new math and have trouble teaching the basics, are the ones we need to put our trust in to fix our schools. Teachers will be the scapegoats yet again.

To think that the absolute awful product the Govt learning institutions currently produce could be improved from within the current union liberal monopoly is akin to the Fox guarding the hen house. The only way for this problem to be fixed is through competition. Each and every student should be assigned a voucher to attend any school they want.

There you have it, what all this opposition to Common Core is really about, vouchers. Tax money to private schools again. Talk about foxes and henhouses. If the right wing can't get in through the front door, they will just sneak around the back.

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