The reason we do this

The reason we do this
A walk with the Coys

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Common core isn't just excessively prescribed standards, it has established a culture of mistrust in education.

I love teaching! I wake up every day and look forward to seeing my students and my co-workers.  I work in a district that values the professionalism of its teachers and encourages us to bring the content to life, in whatever creative ways are truly best for our kids.  Many of my friends that teach in other districts experience the same positive rapport with their districts and communities.  However, the reality is, not every teacher is in a situation where they can express those liberties.  It seems that in my fourteen years of teaching the restrictions that teachers experience have only increased. There have been changes at the state and national levels that have ultimately altered the way my profession feels state-wide.

What has changed?  The way curriculum is determined, the way teachers are evaluated and the overall perception of teachers in the public has all been subject to change.  When I began teaching, Ohio had statewide standards.  I was not opposed to our standards and enjoyed brainstorming and collaborating with others to figure out how I was going to bring the standards to my students.  My evaluations were completed by my building principal and I was provided a teacher mentor who was there as a support person when I had questions. (Thank you, Dr. Carol Butler, for all of your wisdom!).  I completed a one year “entry year teacher” evaluation by the state (Praxis), and I was off and running.  It was an effective system, despite what others outside of education may have said. 

Since the adoption of Common Core, the standards have become overly detailed.  These standards are spelled out to the point of minimal opportunities for creativity, especially for those that teach in districts that have a top-down approach.  With the adoption of common core, the teacher evaluation system has become reliant on the students’ performance on the state standards, and our resident educator program has grown from a one-year program to a four-year, time intensive program.  RESA (resident educator summative assessment) leaves our new teachers feeling overwhelmed and jaded, often questioning their choice of profession.

As I am concluding the first half of my career, I see  “common core” drastically changing the narrative on teachers.  Why are we the ones that everyone likes to hold to the fire?  I agree that teacher accountability is important, but what we have now feels more like a modern day persecution.  To the extent that good teachers, solid teachers, young teachers are leaving the teaching field at an alarming rate.  “between 40-50% of new teachers will leave the teaching profession by their fifth year of service. The high rate of attrition, coupled with a dramatic decrease in the number of people enrolling in teacher preparation programs, has resulted in a looming teacher shortage.”  (1) This is a problem that needs to be addressed and we need to get to the root: Common Core.

The phrase “Common Core” does not simply mean nationwide standards. It represents a top-down approach to education.  In a speech he gave in 2009, Bill Gates (the largest funder of common core) said, “When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better”.   I assure you that “Common Core” is not needed to make “every teacher get better”. If in Gate’s perspective, causing intense stress in the classroom and angsts upon educators is helping teachers, then I question everything that flows from Gates, in regards to education.

As I said, when I hear common core being referred to, I think of much more than standards.  “Common core” is teacher and administrator evaluations. “Common Core” is ridiculous hoops for new teachers to jump through, for years. “Common Core” is the excessive data mining by those who have access to Google databases.  “Common Core” is the 3rd-grade guarantee.  “Common Core” is the slow choking out of teacher freedom and liberty in the classroom.   

I understand not all teachers are as fortunate as me.  Not all teachers have liberty to present the information as they see fit.  Regardless of the school district, many teachers, including myself, do not feel supported by the public and easy pickens for the media.  I want to fix the root of this problem by restoring authority teachers and local school boards.   I hope to see a world where we don’t have teachers leaving the profession in droves, but rather encouraging others to enter the field. 

Ohio House Bill 176 is a unique opportunity for us to work on these issues from a grassroots perspective.  It will allow local school boards and districts to start a dialogue about what is best for their kids. It restores local control over standards, reduces cumbersome testing, and eliminates the direct relationship between student assessment and teacher evaluations. 
I want the second half of my career to see education move back to a place where teachers are respected and treated as “called” professionals.  I want to see Ohio’s education system thrive and produce students who are well-rounded and ready for the next step in their lives, whatever diverse destination calls them.  I believe House Bill 176 will provide the means for us to make this a reality!  Please join me in a grassroots movement to make this change for our state’s future!

Linked below are my thoughts on other related topics as well as ways to connect with your legislators and a link to HB 176.  Please contact your legislators and ask them to support HB 176!

Thank you,

My thoughts on HB 176 and teacher evaluations:

My thoughts on why Massachusetts standards are a good example curriculum:

Link to the analysis of HB 176:

How to identify and contact your state representative:

Link to the full HB 176