This article first appeared on the Girard at Large website.
On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, the public session of Manchester Board of School Committee’s meeting, I voiced my opposition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In order to ensure my comments fit within the allotted three minutes (unlike many proponents who arrogantly droned on for five, six, seven minutes and longer), I delivered a shortened version of the following plea:
“My name is Jon DiPietro and I live in Ward 6. Three of my four children are in Manchester schools right now; Memorial, McLaughlin, and Green Acres. I’m in year 14 of a 25+ year span in which I will have children in school.
There are many aspects of common core that I think are problematic. In my mind, they range from troubling to truly mind boggling:
- I could talk to you tonight about my disappointment that following the standards will mean that our high school graduates will be years behind the rest of the world in math.
- Or I could express my deep reservations about the abdication of local educational sovereignty.
- Or I could share my outrage at the inappropriate, dangerous and possibly unconstitutional data sharing that accompanies common core.
- Or I could recite the growing list of communities and states who are hitting the brakes on common core and questioning its efficacy.
- Or I could recount testimony from developmental child psychologists who insist that the common core standards ask grade school children to perform tasks that require areas of their brains that won’t be fully developed for several more years.
- Or I could repeat stories pouring in from other states about exasperated teachers and emotionally drained children who are wrestling with a badly and hastily constructed system.
- Or I could mention the fact that Sandra Stotsky – credited with developing one of the country’s strongest sets of academic standards for K-12 students – refused to endorse the common core English language arts standards despite being paid to do so.
- Or I could mention the fact that James Milgram – professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University – refused to endorse the common core mathematics standards despite being paid to do so.
- Or I could object to the shift away from knowledge and mastery in favor of empty skills, which will lead to a work force full of sophomores, which you may know is Greek for “wise fool.”
- Or I could explain the danger in a standard that requires children to use emotional words to construct persuasive arguments instead of classical techniques of rhetoric that instead rely on logic and reason.
- Or I could highlight the dangers of a system that favors inquiry-based learning that train teachers to become facilitators instead of instructors.
In my mind, any one of these concerns is enough to pump the brakes on this effort and seriously question whether common core will deliver the change that our education system desperately and unquestioningly needs.
But as a parent of four, I have one concern that in my view trumps every one of them. I’m here tonight to ask you one very simple question: Why are you experimenting with my kids?
- 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.
In my view, what this Board and school administration are doing to teachers and students this year is unfair and highly detrimental. I know the easiest thing to do would be to push forward and follow the herd because everyone else is doing it. I know the hard thing to do is to slow down and maybe, just maybe admit that we moved a little too hastily. Because instead of condemning you for making a mistake, I and all reasonable parents will applaud you for making things right.
This parent respectfully and passionately asks this board to stop experimenting on his kids. Thank you.”
The good news is that immediately following this public session, Superintendent Debra Livingston proposed and the board approved a plan to develop the Manchester Academic Standards. These new standards will borrow from the “best available resources” including standards from other states like Massachusetts and Indiana that have already proven highly successful. Common Core will now be the floor instead of the ceiling.
This is exactly what I and many other CCSS opponents had been imploring the board to do.
There is some controversy around whether or not this vote amounts to a “rejection” of CCSS. Personally, I don’t care what you call it. I fear that some CCSS opponents will push for a clear and unambiguous message from the city that it rejects the standards. In my view, we don’t need to follow in the footsteps of the Obama administration and insist that our opponents be vanquished and humiliated. We should give the administration cover to move forward and do the right thing, which is all that matters as far as I am concerned.