Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Letter to Educators Who Embrace the #commoncore

Dear Educator Friends,

While the common core may not be an issue for you, or your school, do know that for others it will be a major issue. And the problem is this, while the standards might work for you and your school, there are many standards in CC that do not work for many students and many communities. Creating a set of national standards that cannot be changed, in which only 15% can be added (which must be approved by the DOE) is a serious problem when we know that the K-3 standards are developmentally inappropriate and will CRUSH children in high need/high poverty schools. There is no picking and choosing with CC - it's all or nothing - therefore, many children will be failed under this system. Your children may be unscathed, but for the students in my school - it will be devastating. The CC will fail many students, teachers, schools, communities. So, that's just my take on it when considering the standards as an innocent stand alone - which they are NOT. And of course, let's remember that they were not created by classroom teachers and they have never been field tested, this alone is enough for me to refuse the CC because I find it highly shocking that anyone thinks it is acceptable to use children as guinea pigs for an experiment created by the 1%.

However, let's then take a look at CC for the monster it truly is - let's throw out the whole conversation about good standards/bad standards because bottom line is that the bigger picture is not so much about the standards as it is about how well we and our children can be controlled and managed by the CC. This is about using the standards to gather data in order to control students, teachers - pretty much the whole damn system, so that they can determine how we will be used - to meet their needs- in this game called life. This is about profit via data mining. This is about creating a class of workers to meet the needs of the 1%. This is about taking public education and managing it and US - because right now, there are too many of us out there that think out of the box - teachers and children who think creatively and independently are dangerous to their ultimate goal. They don't need us to create or be independent - they need us to follow rules. When Obama and Gates' children follow the common core and their teachers administer PARCC or SBA - somebody can tell me I'm wrong. In the meantime, just know that when PARCC or SBA roll out in 2014-2015 they will have placed one more nail in the faster-every-day death of public education, the destruction of the teaching profession, and this dying democracy. So, we MUST refuse it as a society - and quick - they will continue to create rules and regulations that make it even harder to rebuild our schools..our democracy.

As a teacher, take and use what works for you - just like you would any textbook or any curriculum back in the day when we had teacher autonomy - but as a collective we MUST refuse it in its entirety - we cannot pick/choose - therefore it - along with HST must go. CC and HST will never be separated because they need the two working together in order to complete their plan. There is no autonomy - for anyone - within their plan. And just know that all this crap recently about giving us flexibility and holding off on teacher evaluation etc. etc. in order to allow us time to embrace the common core is nothing but crap - they will use this time of "flexibility" to create more ways to enforce their plan while the majority of educators breathe a big sigh of relief and think they are getting a break...they think that the 1% heard them and supports them. Bull@%$^. Do not be appeased - they are planning as we speak to devise ways to shut us down. We must stay awake and we must refuse. REFUSE. Sorry this is so long, but I think a lot of you and had to share my thoughts - as a friend.

Much love,


  1. This was on the front page of my local newspaper…. I bet it is not unlike yours. STATE FAULTS GRAD PREP. According to NYS, and what their ridiculously titled Aspirational Performance measure, to be college and career ready a HS graduate must score at least a 75 on their English Regents and at least an 80 on an Algebra Regents.

    I went to the Bronx H.S. of Science, one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation. I have a BA, an MA, and an additional 90 graduate credits. However, according to the State’s APM, I was neither college nor career ready because I never got higher than an 80 on ANY math Regents.
    How many of you are HS graduates? How many, like me would not have been “C&C ready”?

    When did we lose our way? The founding fathers knew that in a democracy public schools were necessary to have an informed citizenry.

    Public schools are not just to develop reading and math scores. Public schools are meant for the development of well-rounded adults able to contribute to their communities in whatever way they can, as college professors and auto mechanics, computer scientists and sanitation engineers.

    Public schools are meant to teach not just academics, but citizenship, and humanity.
    Public schools, next to family, are the most important institution in the socialization process of developing mature capable adults in our society.

    When did they turn into factories creating test scores, not adults?

    Many of you see your boys and girls, little and big, hating and getting stressed in school precisely because of what schools are increasingly forced to do in this DOE controlled prescribed manner.

    But why is there a prescribed manner?

    I taught American History for years. One extremely important era was the post Civil War Gilded Age when US Congress was owned lock, stock, and barrel by the powerful Trusts of that era.

    A very famous political cartoon of the time depicted a legislative chamber watched over by HUGE figures of trusts represented by the FAT INDUSTRIALISTS of the era, like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie. Similarly, education bills all over the country today are being guided by our version of these Fat Cats: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, the Koch brothers, Eli Broad, and the Walton Family. Today they are profiting from the education of our children by buying politicians from DC to Albany and indoctrinated them with their pseudo-science and their INADEQUATE $700 million BIG BUCKS!!!

    George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Arne Duncan have hijacked our education system. They provide corporations like Pearson profit at the cost of our children!

    They “embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.”…Like the Common Core and Standardized testing.

    NYS, for better and worse, has had K-12 syllabi and curricula for decades that other states hoped to emulate. It wasn’t perfect, but it was not prescribed. It wasn’t forced down our throats. They replaced it with Race to The Top formulas and The Common Core.

    We have to make our political leaders regret that decision to be bought off, bribed, and blackmailed by Arne Duncan’s and the Federal DOE.

    I went to elementary school in a poor working class integrated South Bronx neighborhood. I learned to love school in 2nd grade because I was encouraged to learn by Ms. Rita Stafford, a teacher who thoroughly engaged all of us… We learned astronomy by hanging a solar system from the ceiling. We learned how to help our parents in neighborhood stores by learning long division. We learned how to fight for civil rights by writing letters to President Eisenhower during the Little Rock crisis. We were published in the NYT.
    Because we love our children we must fight for their right to have a teacher like my Ms. Stafford, and perhaps many of yours who planted the seed of who you are today.
    Because we love our children, we must fight for the education they and the future of this country deserve.Fight to repeal RTTT and Common Core in your state.

  2. I love both of these letters. I am a 25 year veteran teacher of Biology and Science Research. There is so much wrong with this system, agism, sexism, money and big business without a way to measure the effects or its misuse. Although I have been opposed to corporate educational reform, I like some of the changes sought in the common core and have embraced them. Your argument convinced me that the opposition to corporate reform should not be separated from opposition to Common Core. CC must be opposed because it is part of the factory model and cannot be separated from the relentless and tyrannical reform movement.
    David's letter was also beautiful encapsulation of what has happened to our society and is something I agree with. we have been scapegoated for a society that is failing our population based on lack of opportunity due to monopoly and outsourcing, a lack of inspiration and a basic failure of the American Dream even if it 90% facade. There is no facade anymore as the decline in wages and opportunity hits every segment of our society except for the business moguls.

  3. I agree with and applaud this post and the comments. I am a retired teacher of the deaf, and I find this quote especially poignant:
    "we know that the K-3 standards are developmentally inappropriate and will CRUSH children in high need/high poverty schools. There is no picking and choosing with CC - it's all or nothing - therefore, many children will be failed under this system. Your children may be unscathed, but for the students in my school - it will be devastating. The CC will fail many students, teachers, schools, communities." It is outrageous that the Common Core was written by not one person with expertise and experience in child development. Even the professional associations of English and Math teachers were not included. The lack of flexibility in curriculum is one problem, but the incessant testing and data collection is unconscionable. What possible reason could anyone have for collecting sensitive and personally identifiable info on virtually every student in the country pre-k to 20? And now they want to use biometrics to monitor students' development of Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance! It's ironic that the right wingers are outraged by this government power grab, but the progressives and liberals don't seem to get it. We all have to work together to defeat this. Hopefully it's not too late.

    1. As to the appropriateness of the standards I think it is important that the National Center for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has mostly positive things to say about CCS:
      CAST’s critique is along the same lines:
      And a teacher/administrator in my district who is one of the UDL trainers agrees:
      From her blog: “These Anchor Standards are then broken down into developmentally appropriate levels of rigor for each grade.” She is a UDL trainer.

  4. Thanks for this post. You have put into words what I have been telling my colleagues and administrators: the 1% is grooming our children to serve them by devastating public education. The most troubling aspect of cc for me is the 70/30 ratio of informational text to literary text. Literary text better stimulates critical and imaginative thinking, something the corporate interests can not allow. For now, my administrators think I am crazy, but I'm glad I'm not alone.

  5. One suggestion, but I believe a key one. It is possible to focus on what's wrong not only with this particular initiative (CCSSI) but the very idea of such a nationalization of standards, curriculum, and testing, WITHOUT focusing on political parties or specific politicians other perhaps than to mention in passing.

    What I'm suggesting here is that Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama are irrelevant other than to identify time periods. They are figureheads. One party comes into power. Soon, the other takes power. But when it comes to educational politics and policy, they are interchangeable. Why is that?

    Simple: they are not the ones calling the shots. It's the billionaires and the corporations they own and control. It's a multinational problem (not in the sense of United Nations global conspiracies, but in terms of how corporations work at this point in history). They won't change when Obama leaves in early 2017 and someone new - Democrat or Republican - takes charge. The more things change, the more they will stay the same when it comes to public education policy.

    If you stay focused on the main goal of the education deform movement - profit with an ancillary goal of shaping educational content to further pacify people and helping them accept their helplessness - you'll have a much better idea of where we're coming from, where we are, and where we're heading if we don't fight in an intelligent and honest way.

    That means - keep the crazy conspiracy theories out of this. This isn't about Obamacare, the UN, a socialist or Communist or Muslim or gay agenda. It's not a black helicopter-driven takeover. It's a simple financial power grab by those who can afford to buy the government and who can control the official story about teachers, unions, "failing" schools, phony international competitions judged on the basis of comparing apples to oranges via rigid (but highly-profitable) standardized tests.

    Never before in US history have corporations completely controlled curriculum and policy in education the way they are poised to do through the CCSSI. If you allow yourself to get caught up in extremist political thinking, hatred of Obama, and a lot of ill-founded paranoia, you will alienate people who are instantly turned off by extremist and clearly partisan politics.

    But people perhaps can see the plutocrats and 1% better now than any time since the Great Depression. Keep focused on what matters. The unvarnished truth is our best weapon.

  6. It's so hard not to by cynical.

    Fail kids early, label them as "below standard", watch them drop out in droves with shattered academic confidence, and then watch the crime rate soar; along with it the incarceration rates of our citizens in privately run prisons.

    Surely, what I describe is hyperbole. I sure hope it is.

    1. Brian, aren't you more or less describing the current state of things?
      Are the current ELA standards not ones we would want for our own children?
      I know I would, at least starting at 1st grade. And every able minded child deserves that too.

  7. I teach children with special needs ( HFA autism) very bright but learn differently. I work with many others who teach children with learning disabilities also slower & different types of learners BUT they can and do learn and like many other great minds and contributors to our society positive or negative ( Einstein, Jobs, Suess, Gates...) struggle in traditional methods of instruction- so I share in in many of the concerns here as we should all know by now that children as adults learn differently and as soon as we standardize teaching we harm more and more.. especially those who think differently, struggle economically, speak different languages etc... and the testing needs to stop! What are we really measuring? Poverty. And we re labeling too many failures - shame on us for buying into all this hype. I feel for the children and their teachers.

  8. Lawyers, lawyers everywhere, but ne'er a one to take on a class action lawsuit.

  9. Thank you for putting into words, everything I've been feeling but haven't been able to say.

  10. I do not know how much better the root issue at hand could be said. In short, Orwell was, as ever, right again.