12:01 PM EDT, November 1, 2013
This responds to the Oct. 17 letter by Chris Jones. "Dump the 'New Coke' educational reforms and bring back the classic." Has Mr. Jones read the new State Standards for English Language Arts and State Standards for Mathematics?" Has he compared them with the current respective Howard County Public School System standards? I have read them and compared them with the respective English and some of the math standards. Thus, I must point out some major inconsistencies in his letter and provide some factual background. First, these standards were started by the states' governors and major business leaders who could not find sufficiently skilled workers in the country and noted that a recent international assessment of our students ranked them much lower than European countries' students.
"There is no independent research or empirical evidence to back up the claims that it is a better way to teach." These are standards first recommended by the National Governors' Association, major business leaders and Council of State School Officers  to improve the current patchwork of standards by thousands of local school districts to one coherent focused set of standards; they aim to improve the students' skills to better compete with the best school systems in the world, a process called benchmarking. Each section of the standards has carefully referenced resources supporting the concepts.
"Common Core has been found by many child psychologists to be developmental inappropriate for children in elementary grades." A broad generalization, with no evidence. The CC standards have been developed by the best curriculum specialists in universities, high schools, and educational consultants. If you review their qualifications and quality of work, you will find respected objective scholars.
"The increase in the amount of testing . . . will be two to three times what kids do in the past." The newer assessments, after being tested for reliability and validity, will replace most of the testing currently employed. There may be some overlap during 2014, but it is not expected to increase future testing. Another "fallacy" making the rounds, is that teachers will be teaching to the test. Think what a test is supposed to do: to determine to what degree the student has understood the math concepts for the appropriate grade level.
If the teacher has really coached the students to learn "quadratic equations and their applications," then the teacher has been successful, i.e., testing to the standard.
Finally, "throw it away so we can be on a level playing field with Arkansas," really shows a lack of understanding of standards. If all states focus on fewer intensive goals in math and English, then a service family child moving around the states will at least have the same basic target skills in one state as the next. The results may differ, but at least they are aiming at the same skills. And that will improve the student, the state, and the country's skill levels, and over time the quality of our work force.
Ronald E. Putz
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