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My Turn: Common Core: the path to mediocrity

Last modified: 10/5/2013 12:17:11 AM
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.)


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