Understand Common Core before criticizing

The more I read responses to my previous letter addressing my concerns with Andy Thompson’s attack on Common Core, the more I realize how little the public actually knows about Common Core State Standards and The Third Grade Initiative. There are a few important things that people should understand.

First, CCSS exists only to inform instruction. Simply put, they guide the teacher and tell him/her what skill the children should know by the end of the year. They do not establish curriculum or methodology. Districts typically establish a curricula and each teacher has his/her own method to carry out that curricula. I once heard a child development professor say, “Line 10 teachers up and you’ll get 10 different opinions on the best way to teach a skill,” and she was right.

CCSS fully allows local control and if you ask teachers, their problem, generally, is not with the standards themselves; rather, the problem teachers and families have are with high-stakes testing, i.e., The Third Grade Initiative. TGI requires that all students take a State-Administered Test, The Ohio Achievement Assessment. The state uses these test scores to determine things like school funding, but also, and more importantly, the teacher’s ability to teach and the child’s ability to learn. Once the child reaches third grade, this score even determines whether the child will move forward to the fourth grade or be retained. This puts a lot of pressure on each and every student and educator involved. Teachers lose all control of how they teach because the test expresses concepts in a very specific way. If the student cannot model the concept just as the test requires, they lose points. Even if the child understands the concept as it’s shown in a different way, they will still fail.

The very first thing educators are taught is that each child learns differently. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory explains, “We are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences – and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.” To date, professionals have yet to find one assessment that can possibly measure each individual strength that each individual child has; so why does the state think their one test can successfully do this? It simply cannot. Why, then, do they place such high stakes on it? Here in-lies our problem. It is not the standards, it’s the test.

That being said, wouldn’t the solution be to address TGI instead of attacking CCSS? Thompson has not stated that he wishes to halt high-stakes testing. The test will simply be aligned to whichever standards the legislature chooses to implement, so the problem will remain. Thompson simply says that he wants to hold our schools to a higher standard, or to implement more difficult standards for the children. More difficult standards mean a more difficult test, and 57% of children failed the first round of the OAA already. Thompson is not addressing the issue at all, he’s making it worse. If Thompson’s bill to repeal Common Core is passed, all of the time and resources already spent to align curriculum with CCSS will be in vain. It will cost Ohio an estimated $300 million to re-implement new standards. Our schools are already struggling as it is. Especially since, in his district alone, Thompson has cut school funding by nearly 11 million dollars.

What disturbs me the most is not Thompson’s ignorance, it’s his lack thereof. I watched the latest edition of State of Ohio on CBS where Thompson spoke about his bill. He said that one of his concerns with CCSS is that there is no longer time for music, art, etc. because testing is pushed so aggressively. Thompson is well-aware that the tests are not a CCSS issue, they’re a TGI issue; however, TGI is not what he’s repealing. He’s melting the issues together to make us think he’s solving our problems while really, all he’s accomplishing is taking more money from our schools. It’s a political game to gain supporters. Being that Thompson so highly supports privatization, one can only guess that his true motive would be to encourage parents to send their children to private schools. He, himself, sends his children to a private school and is even opening a private school in Marietta.

So to this writer, I would like to say that, yes, I am an ally and supporter of Daniels; but it’s not because I have a political agenda or a personal vendetta against Thompson. It is because Thompson has proven time and time again that he has no problem deceiving his constituents and selling us out to fuel his own agenda. We need to restore fairness and balance back in the statehouse and put our children first. It’s time to Fire Thompson.

Amanda Lancione