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Common Core: What does it mean for parents?

So far, the teachers I’ve talked to express more resignation regarding the common core standards than anything else.  In the case of my oldest daughter’s school, the teachers of AP courses are expected to work completely without a syllabus of any kind and are mostly winging it and creating their own as they go.

When I asked for specifics, I was told there are none and was shown the Common Core guidelines website which only contain concept goals tied to specific grade levels and nothing more.

The idea of having a common standard is a good one, but as far as I can tell so far our execution of the process towards reaching those goals within Idaho school systems is haphazard at best.

An interesting item I was told by the school administration recently: Some schools are pushing more children into AP courses because those AP courses (scholastically speaking) are the closest to achieving the Common Core goals simply because Idaho is so far behind. I’m told that those AP classes will eventually become the new standard which will hopefully mean that Idaho Schools will no longer be ranked in the bottom 5 states in the nation.

We hear news accounts of “Common Core” forcing schools to teach skewed philosophy and changing the direction of learning, but in the cases I’ve actually read, that was already happening in those schools before Common Core and the people behind it were simply the people already in charge within that state/local school system. It seems to be mostly people who were already pushing an agenda were simply using Common Core as the scapegoat when their particular plans to manipulate the curriculum backfired.


One example I faced last year:

Two teachers; one of English writing and one of Science were turning back my child’s work because they deemed her artwork was not good enough.  This surprised me quite a bit, especially since my child was in a separate art class which had nothing to do with English or Science.  so I followed up with those teachers, who did not respond to me on the subject, but instead wrote me about every other my child had.

Being realistic here, I understood the failings of my child already and my wife and I were working to correct and teach our child how to overcome them, but those two teachers refused to even acknowledge that they had also injected a roadblock to my child’s learning.  That roadblock took the shape of “Art Focus.”  If you notice, some public schools have been designated as a “Choice” school. Meaning school district officials have decided to add a particular focus to that school regardless of whether parents whose children must go to that particular school want it that way or not.   The school in question has been designated a Choice school with an Art focus.  What that meant to these two teachers became the focal point of a conflict between myself and the school district which lasted 6 months or so…

But I am getting a bit far afield here…  The short version:  When a class assignment intended to teach scholastic lesson A is turned in, it is expected to be completed on a certain date or that assignment receives a 20% grade penalty for being late.  When lesson A is turned in by a child, it is further examined for artistic completeness and if that lesson does not have “Enough color”  or “Not enough work went into the art” that assignment is summarily rejected and the student, who finished all of the scholastic portions of the assignment is penalized 20% of the grade not for the scholastic completeness, but for not meeting an artistic standard.

I followed up with the principle, who promptly insisted both teachers were following school district guidelines.

Knowing a brush-off when I read one, I followed up with a few other communications but received no better answers.  I then sent my concerns to my school board member, who responded with concern and forwarded me to a person within the school district who was supposedly responsible for curriculum.  That person took nearly 4 months to respond after a contacted the School Board member wondering what had happened.

I was flabbergasted to hear from this person that no such requirements existed and that I should once again contact the principle.

I was done with this current merry-go-round and promptly wrote to all of them together expressing my frustration at the lack of cooperation.  About that time I had the opportunity to move my child out of that school district and did so post-haste.  Of course, only after I had made that decision did the principle suddenly become available to meet with me regarding my concerns…

I knew at that point that I would never get to the core of that issue because the Principle was protecting the teachers, the teachers their job and the school District was throwing up their hands and pushing the whole thing off on the principle.


So what does this all have to do with Common Core?

Well, I suppose it could show you one little glimpse into the merry mess that is our public school system.  In such a system, how effective do you think it would be to institute a sweeping change across the board without very specific road-maps or guidelines to follow?  Would you expect it to get better, or worse?  My personal expectation is that both will occur and rather in a dramatic fashion in both directions.  Here in Idaho, teacher frustration will get worse, student scores will climb somewhat simply because they are being thrown over the scholastic cliff into more difficult material, but nobody will tell the parents where the line is or what they can expect beyond that their children will become even more frustrated and anxious about school than they are now.  Oh yeah, and schools will still forbid your kids from bringing home school books to help guide their homework because the school budget is so out of whack they can’t afford books for all the students…
There exist within our school systems people who already want to push certain closely held lifelong agendas as it is, and it’s not too far a stretch to imagine what those people will attempt to slip those agendas into the curriculum during such a confusing time as during this undisciplined headlong rush towards the Common Core standards.

It must be fairly tempting (total conjecture here) when you can’t get changes approved that some school officials would try to intimate that such a change would be required by Common Core in the hope that the somewhat vague nature of Common Core at the moment will lead people to not question the validity of those claims.

Unless I’ve missed something I haven’t seen any such stories yet within Idaho, and yet Common Core is being pushed heavily by the school districts here too.

Even so, we hear stories about how much damage Common Core is doing in this state or some other states, but most of those news stories share a common theme:  No specifics and a lot of pointing fingers at some supposedly shadowy characters behind the scenes.  Nobody is confirming anything, the parents know nothing about what is happening at the schools and when some piece of curriculum is found to be incredibly beyond the pale, Common Core is automatically to blame.

One article from John Stossel (Fox Business News) points to the federal government as being the source behind Common Core, claiming the federal government is pushing a “teaching plan” down the throats of every state school district in the nation.  But wait, I didn’t see federal government officials drawing up the standards for Common Core; those were State officials and teachers combined with those private companies who provide the testing platforms nationwide.   He also repeats a claim heard elsewhere, that Common Core penalizes those states who do not cooperate with steep federal financial penalties.  Common Core proponents claim that no such penalties exist at all…


I wouldn’t be too quick to blame Common Core

Having a national standard merely creates a performance benchmark; it’s still the teachers and administrators you already have in place who are determining how your school reaches them.  In short, you still have the same people to blame after Common Core came to town that you had before Common Core arrived.

If having a “Common Core” standard is changing the direction of learning, I would say for the most part I would like to give it a chance before killing it just because it’s the newest thing in town.  I mean really,  didn’t we all put our pitchforks and torches away ages ago?  Aren’t we more intelligent than to blame every problem on something or someone just because it is new?


This begs the question:  “But why is Common Core changing how my kids are being taught?”

I read a Washington Post article tonight from back in 2012 that struck me as laughingly hysterical, claiming Common Core will destroy the fabric of our school systems, among other claims, failing to point to a single piece of evidence one way or the other.  But it’s “News” pieces like this that are driving parents nuts with alarm.  OK, so no answer there…


My thought: Since everything is in such a state of flux, with the path to achieving the new Common Core standards so undefined and seemingly uncontrolled, it would appear to provide ample opportunities for people within the school system to insert their own agenda into the curriculum and blame Common Core when they get caught at it. As a parent, I’m keenly aware of what my child is being taught and am watching for those “left turns.”

It is ultimately my responsibility as a parent in any case. If I find objectionable material, I for one have no problem contacting school officials to make it known.  The schools are a public learning platform.  IN Idaho, ours has been busted for quite some time.  Quit griping when someone tries to fix it or you’ll be stuck with the same crappy school system you have now.

I’m thinking that without a performance benchmark such as Common Core in place, Idaho’s schools already stand very close (45th to 50th depending upon the particular research source) to being the worst in the nation; isn’t it about time we changed course?

The real problem that people are not focusing on here is why our school districts have no comprehensive plan in place to get us there.  How can our school system possibly get better if the teachers who are being held responsible for teaching it are being thrown off a veritable cliff without a parachute?


A note of Caution:

The Common Core agreement should not be confused with groups such as and others, they present material they claim to be the foundation of the Common Core system.  These aren’t government-pushed curriculum, these are privately peddled, know the difference.

“So, with the advent of the Common Core State Standards in 2010, we decided to begin designing a library of content-rich, standards-based curriculum materials.” –

This shows you that Common Core itself is not responsible for the “Fuzzy math” and the concept that there is no wrong answer, but rather students should be rewarded for thinking processes instead.  It’s organizations who have already been attempting to change your schools to fit their own agendas since long before Common Core was even a thought…

Every publishing company that ever produced a schoolbook is rushing to publish “Common Core” based curriculum.  Which one comes to a school near you is completely up to whomever shows up to the school board meetings.


If you haven’t been to a school board meeting lately, you have already abdicated you right to squeal…


Just my view from the cheep seats…

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