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The Common Core Itch

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Thursday, June 26th, 2014. Governor Danel Malloy (D-WFP) held a press conference in Hartford, Connecticut, announcing plans to provide additional funding for the implementation of the Common Core. $2 million dollars are being readied from the budget of the state department of education for the professional development of math instruction and language arts. Another $10 million dollars, which added to the state Bond Commission agenda, will also be put with the $24 million assigned for upgrades in school technology to support the transition to the common core.

A federally promoted education initiative, the Common Core standards were introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill via Race to the Top (RttT), a grant program through which states could apply and compete for waivers from both No Child Left Behind and federal grant money. However, in doing so these states were required to accept the following: a set of uniform standards as well as aligned curricula and testing to permit the government a more prominent role in education, student data collection, and teacher evaluations composed of student performance on assessments aligned with standards.

The Common Core standards are reported as having been developed by three private organizations in Washington D.C., and were all privately funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The first, an education company called Achieve, Inc. the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the National Governors Association (NGA) (Breitbart). Governors and state school chiefs alike were said to have recognized the importance of real world, consistent learning goals, and therefore established the Common Core State standards to enable students to be prepared for when they graduate high school and start their respective careers. Two pages of criteria are used to develop the standards; standards, informed by: the experience of teachers, states, leading thinkers, and content experts, feedback from the public, and the best standards currently in existence.

While standards in state education are reported to have been prominent since the early 1900s, a lack of standardization was felt by the early 2000s when each state had created and implemented unique learning standards to indicate what students between grades 3-8 as well as high school should be able to do. This was coupled with each state developing their own terms by which a student is considered proficient, or at the level at which one can detect a student is properly educated at each respective level of education, including graduation.

The development process of the establishment of these standards was organized into two distinct categories. The first, college-and career-readiness standards, in which it states what students need to understand and know prior to graduating from high school. The second focuses upon the K-12 standards, addressing clear expectations for students during their primary years in elementary school up until graduation (Common Core State Standards Initiative).

Governor Malloy has been noted for having held conversations with teachers who believe in the value and effectiveness of the Common Core standards. In fact, he shares his own belief that it is the best way to prepare students for college and their respective careers.

However, opposition for the Common Core Standards has been steadily increasing over the past year. A survey in May, consisting of teachers from both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) as well as the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) concluded that 82% were hesitant that there would not be enough time to properly learn, develop, and use the Common Core standards. A phone survey conducted between June 21-22 with 1,000 adults revealed that only 34% of American adults with children of elementary or secondary school age wanted all schools in the nation to adhere to such standards—an 18-point drop from 52% back in early November of 2013. Even Jonathan Pelto, Malloy’s competition for a second term in office as governor, claimed that Malloy’s support for the standards was: “absurd, unfair, and costly…[a] program [that] is undermining our public education system and wasting scare public dollars” (Breitbart).

Is it possible that the intent of the Common Core standards is losing popular favor in addition to credibility? It has been reported that the aforementioned groups, CSSO, Achieve, Inc., CCSSO, and NGA were not accountable to teachers, parents, students, or even taxpayers. Furthermore, while it has been said that there is no official information to be found on the individuals who were chosen to write the common core standards, none of the writers of the English Language Arts standards ever taught math, English, or even reading at the K-12 level. Also, the Standards Development Work Groups are said to have neglected including any members who were state or local school board members, state legislators, early childhood educators, engineers, parents, English professors, scientists, or high school mathematics or English teachers. Then the state boards of education, most of which were unelected, put these standards into effect before reading through them, first. (Breitbart).

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