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My Comments on the NPR Interview with Neal and White

Today’s NPR interview/podcast by Claudio Sanchez (click here to read/listen) with Mike Neal of the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Jenni White of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, and the comments posted online about it, highlight an aspect of the Common Core controversy that is being overlooked in the media. Mr. Neal uses the term ‘fringe groups” to describe the movement in Oklahoma, of which Jenni is one, but only one, of the leaders. Neal claims that groups like ROPE, perhaps even ROPE itself, have threatened Republican legislators with election-time retribution. I’m sure Mrs. White can only wish she had that much power!

Many of those who are active in the movement to “Stop Common Core” are indeed believers in traditional, classical education, as is Mrs. White. But to attempt to write the movement off as a fringe group of conservative, religious fanatics overlooks reality. What has been amazing about this movement is that it runs the gamut of the political as well as the philosophical and religious continuum.

Last month’s first annual conference of the Network for Public Education was attended by teachers and educational leaders from all points on the continuum. Left and right, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, progressive and traditionalist, all took an active part. The focus of the conference was decidedly anti-Common Core and anti-testing. Even the most ardent Common Core supporters agree that testing is the sine-qua-non of the Common Core Initiative, and it is in fact the testing requirements that result in Common Core becoming a curriculum that teachers must teach, despite protestations to the contrary. What is tested is what is taught. Call that a scheme or not; it is a clear reality. I’ve been an educator long enough to know that.

No one has been able to present a convincing argument, including Mr. Neal, as to how the Common Core Standards are better than the PASS Oklahoma abandoned in 2010. Even the Fordham Institute, a patently pro-Common Core think-tank, reviewed PASS and found them at least as good as Common Core. Mr. Neal makes the statement that at that time “no one had a problem with [the Common Core Standards].” What Mr. Neal neglects to point out is that no one knew what was in the standards when they were approved by the legislature; certainly no teachers, administrators, or teacher educators in universities even knew what was in them. We were caught totally by surprise. It is only as we have been able to study the 500-page standards in some detail over the last two to three years that we have been able to see how inappropriate they are, especially at the early childhood levels. Sorry, Mr. Neal, that argument simply won’t hold water.

Neal says dumping Common Core would be an expensive mistake because so many Oklahoma high school graduates require remediation to move into post-secondary education or be hired for jobs. He is absolutely correct that an embarrassing amount of money has been spent on the implementation of Common Core and the related tests, with not a lot to show for it. My dad used to tell me it wasn’t wise to throw good money after bad. If the Common Core Standards are not what we need, how is spending even more money—and no one yet knows how much—going to make weak standards any better? The only thing that could justify that is if Oklahoma had the authority to revise the standards, but it doesn’t because the CC Standards themselves are copyrighted and not subject to Oklahoma “tampering.” If attempts are made by Oklahoma authorities to copy and paste parts of the Standards into “its own” standards, that would clearly be against the law.

Sanchez concludes his report by saying that business leaders are concerned that repealing Common Core would take Oklahoma “back to square one, with no guarantees that Oklahoma will end up with standards as good as Common Core.” Since we know that our old standards are at least as good as Common Core, how is that a bad thing? If Common Core is no better than PASS, how will it lead to the more “college-and-career-ready” students Neal and his fellow business leaders crave?

I do think Jenni White is right about this: “…the Chamber of Commerce…isn’t for parents. They’re for businesses.”

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One thought on “My Comments on the NPR Interview with Neal and White

  1. Cher Berts on said:

    I wanted to share this exchange between commenters following the unsettling NPR article you are referring to in this blog entry
    http://www.npr.org/2014/04/04/299046883/common-core-turns-business-leaders-against-oklahoma-gop

    Aarn
    It is surprising how many pro-Common Core commenters here are embarassingly ignorant about Common Core (and Oklahoma), as they regurgitate the standard anti-Conservative, political talking points. It is apparent that they didn’t even bother to note that Common Core was forced on Oklahoma (without any local discussion) by the Governor, Mary Fallin, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, who are both CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS! It is also apparent that they are unaware that a key spokesperson for Common Core is JEB BUSH, who as many do know is also a REBUBLICAN. In addition, Common Core is heavily promoted by Bill Gates, the US Chamber of Commerce, Exxon and many other large corporations. Aren’t these commenters also uniformly against big corporations and corporate greed? However, odd as it may seem, these pro-Common Core, anti-Conservative commenters are in agreement with key Republicans and big corporations. Do some reading folks; NPR listeners surely can be better informed than this series of comments indicated.
    To save you a little time, the Fordham Institute compared existing state standards to the Common Core standards and found that several states were giving up better standards; and that 11 states had standards equivalent to Common Core, INCLUDING Oklahoma. So the Governor’s plan to subject Oklahoma to this expensive changeover to ‘Common Core aligned’ everything would be for something it’s already providing?! For those remarking that Oklahoma’s education system is ranked low, consider then what Common Core has selected as “rigorous”.
    In the end, the BI-PARTISAN (yes, if you’d checked) alarms set-off by this business scam (to profit by controlling our children’s education and much more) actually did Oklahomans a favor. Now with legislation passed, Oklahoma is committed to write even better standards that can honor the time-tested, parent-child-teacher guided, education model, with input from all Oklahomans— from local districts to our institutions of higher education. Instead of being only allowed to use “Common Core aligned” textbooks, Oklahoma’s schools will be able to keep what they have already paid for as well as add from an unlimited cross-section of curriculum materials, including any useful Common Core aligned books.
    Unlike states limited to the pre-determined level of the copyrighted Common Core standards, Oklahoma’s locally written ones can be ever-evolving, higher standards that are monitored and improved upon as new ideas and needs arise. Unlike the children in Common Core states who will be told what the nationally amassed data has determined they are capable of doing, Oklahoma’s children can still direct their own futures as they continue to be asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.

    KrazyHarold .. Aarn
    Very good. In Canada they don’t have a national test standard. They do very well!

    Aarn .. KrazyHarold
    Thank you. Too bad we didn’t copy the testing approach from Canada.

    ColtKale.. Aarn
    Great ad hominem attack. Perhaps you could debate the standards themselves instead of discrediting them because of who supports them.

    Aarn .. ColtKale
    Sorry that you missed my point. My opening comments were given as examples to counter the earlier commenters “ad hominem” attacks insisting that the people that don’t like Common Core are Conservatives. In fact, as I indicated, both the proponents and the anti-Common Core groups are notably bipartisan.
    The rest of my statement did actually deal with the Common Core standards themselves and the fact that they are not rigorous enough! One only needs to consider that Oklahoma is ranked 43rd nationally and the Common Core standards are on a par with Oklahoma’s current standards per the Fordham Institute. Since Common Core’s standards are copyrighted by the private, national organizations, NGA and CCSSO, and don’t improve on Oklahoma’s standards, they actually serve to put a cap on them.
    Therefore, by repealing Common Core, Oklahomans are committed to locally written standards which “can be ever-evolving, higher standards that are monitored and improved upon as new ideas and needs arise.” Features not available in states using copyrighted Common Core standards.
    In addition, since Oklahoma’s standards won’t be copyrighted, any other states repealing Common Core can exchange their successful standards, practices, etc. which promotes a true opportunity for increasingly “rigorous” standards in all of these states. Even though this means the Chamber of Congress and SLDS’s stated “other stakeholders” won’t have their desired assessment data from Oklahoma, the students will have a lot of extra classroom hours become available for learning and will be the ones planning their own futures.

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