The superintendent of our school district was gracious enough to meet with a small group of parents over coffee yesterday afternoon to address questions and concerns about Common Core, which is being rolled out in our district and is expected to be fully implemented this upcoming 2014/15 school year.  There was one mom there who is also a college professor and she had nothing but praise to offer for Common Core (which hasn’t even been fully implemented yet), so I’m really not even sure why she was there.

The concerns I raised were as follows:

  • Everything I’ve read about Common Core emphasizes that the standards were not written by educators, anyone with a background in education, nor anyone even knowledgeable about child development.
  • Probably because of that, one of the main criticisms of the Common Core standards is that they are developmentally inappropriate and will set many children up for failure.
  • How will it impact students on IEPs?
  • The one-size-fits-all learning model will also set many kids up for failure.  Kids learn differently and at different rates.  Demanding that every kid master the same standards in the same exact timeline is completely unrealistic.
  • Standardized testing will now start in kindergarten – how is that appropriate?
  • The fact that Common Core is brand new means that we have no idea if it will be good or bad for schools and students, so to insist that it’s this great thing is inappropriate.  Our kids are the guinea pigs.
  • It’s also going to radically change the curriculum mid-stream for any kid who is already a few years into their school career.

Well, our superintendent is a very nice man, but he’s also, to some extent, a politician.  He has to be.  This means that he gives the carefully worded responses.  His district is implementing Common Core; therefore, he must talk up Common Core.  He can’t very well sit there and say, “Yeah, it might be a really bad thing.  What happened in New York?  Could happen here.”

For the most part, each of the concerns raised was met with something along the lines of, “That’s not true,” or “That’s not the case.”  He insists that educators were involved in drafting the standards (when I asked who these educators were, he couldn’t give me any names, but just said, “A lot of educators, including college professors, helped draft the standards.”).  He said that our district will be using the same text books it’s used for the last several years, and “eighty percent of the curriculum will be the same as it has been.”  Huh.  This is so different from everything I’ve been reading about Common Core.  He also said that the concern about the standards being developmentally inappropriate is unfounded, and that Common Core will actually allow for more individualized learning.  Again, huh.  Very, very different from what I’ve been reading.  He further said that it is simply not true that standardized testing will begin in kindergarten with Common Core, but rather, that it won’t begin until third grade as opposed to second grade as it’s been for the last several years.  He said that what happened in New York was unfortunate, but that it was the result of the standardized testing not being “calibrated” properly.  Again, huh.

So, as a parent of (currently) five grade school children and one high-schooler, I am left scratching my head.  If Common Core is so great, what is the basis for all the criticism?  Is Diane Ravitch delusional?  What about Kris Nielsen?  Or Tom Hobson?  Is it all just propaganda?  How is a concerned parent to know?