Regarding the State Board of Education’s Review of Common Core Standards

Today, I appeared before the State Board of Education in Concord to offer the following testimony during public comment:

I took time away from my business this morning to drive up to Concord and support the review of the state English Language Arts and Math Common Core standards. I’m a parent of 4 daughters, currently 17 years into a 25-year span during which I’ll have children in Manchester schools.

I’m wondering why this Board would have a moment’s hesitation in reviewing the standards by which our children are reviewed. I’ve seen classroom instruction time eroded severely in Manchester over the past 17 years. It’s reached the point where they’ve had to take recess away from elementary students in order to make up for the excessive assessment time. So, if it’s that important to assess our kids, shouldn’t it be at least as important to assess the assessment standards?

I’m wondering why this Board would be concerned about the process or the results of reviewing the standards. We’ve been told for at least 5 years that the Common Core State Standards are essential to making sure our kids are college and career-ready. Surely we’re seeing results by now? I’m wondering why this Board isn’t jumping at the opportunity to show its constituents how successful the standards have proven.

Back in 2014, I went before the Manchester Board of School Committee when they were considering adopting the Common Core Standards. I implored them to “Stop Experimenting on My Kids” with unproven, unsubstantiated, untested changes to education. After providing a long list of questions regarding the standards, I said the following:

Please don’t tell me that this isn’t experimental when we’ve adopted a system that hasn’t even completed the development of all of its standards.
Please don’t tell me that this isn’t experimental when my daughter’s algebra teacher unexpectedly gets a shipment of new books dropped in his classroom six weeks into the school year, causing him to throw out his entire lesson plan and finish out the year flying by the seat of his pants.
Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when we have no data to support the theory that this will lead to an improvement in education.
Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when the Board of School Committee hasn’t even decided to adopt common core when the schools are knee-deep into it.
Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when most teachers I’ve spoken with in the two open houses I’ve attended shrug their shoulders and admit that they don’t know where this is going or what’s expected of them.
Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when my middle school daughter comes home crying because she failed a math quiz because she got the correct answers using the outdated method she was taught last year.

Of course, the District proceeded with the experiment. So I’m wondering why this Board wouldn’t want to show me the results of those experiments. Prove to me that the experiment was a success.

I’m wondering why this Board thinks it’s so dangerous or counter-productive simply to perform a review of the standards we parents were told would be so great for our kids.

All of this leads me to wonder if this is political.

So let’s talk about the politics of school standards.

I’m the webmaster for a Manchester-based radio talk show website. Just this morning, I took a look at the analytics for the past four years and the top two articles on that website were what we data analysts would call “outliers.” The traffic and social media shares for both of those articles dwarfed the third-most popular article by a factor of 40-to-1.

The most popular of these articles was my testimony before the Manchester Board of School Committee, titled “Stop Experimenting on My Kids.” It went viral and was read and shared over a hundred thousand times. The second-most popular article was about a Manchester teacher who came forward to tell the public that she was “Angry, frustrated but most of all sad!” She was heartbroken over the amount of instruction time that was being sacrificed in favor of assessments.

In closing, what I would tell this Board is that if you can’t see your way clear to doing what is the logically smart thing to do, maybe you will do what is the politically smart thing. Because parents are watching and parents care. They rarely have the time to take two hours out of their work schedule to appear before you folks but they are watching, reading, sharing, and voting.

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