Written by Nashua School Board Member Sandra Ziehm:Common Core is the federal program mandating educational standards across states. While any effort to improve learning is admirable, “the devil is in the details,” which vary by city and state, based on population diversity.
Included in Nashua’s 13,000 students are 1,000 English language learners, 1,828 individual education plans for special education students, 150 students identified as homeless, and 43 percent below the poverty line. I estimate that 50 percent of our students are performing below grade level. Classes are large with inadequate classroom support and significant dollars are spent on non-classroom support.
Now we change the standards to Common Core. What happens to that 50 percent already lacking the fundamental skill set to meet grade-level expectations? Will 6,500 students need remedial services? Can we successfully remediate that many students? Remediation can only be achieved through direct instruction. At Fairgrounds Middle School they piloted the Smarter Balanced Assessments. The results showed that the test is more about computer training than academic content.
Naturally, administrators feel compelled to implement programs that their superiors have mandated. Teachers are overwhelmed by the increased workload. Smarter Balanced, iReady and competency-based testing are being implemented at the same time. All of this has caused a great divide between the teachers and administration. Teachers believe it is too much, too fast. Frustration and lack of cooperation create a culture of distrust and divisiveness. Even worse is the negative effect it has on teacher morale.
Let’s have the courage to reject Common Core and the federal government’s attempted takeover of local education.