Friday, September 27, 2013

Schools As Institutions of Democracy? Whose Democracy?


I read an article today - I couldn't help it, the title begged me - called "Why Schools Must Talk About Trayvon Martin".  I had to find out why tax dollar supported public schools MUST talk about Trayvon Martin. 

This was a blog on EdWeek, written by a special education teacher in Boston and his thesis was that since schools are supposed to be institutions FOR democracy, we should be having "contentious conversation" because this discussion should ameliorate societal ills.

Perhaps this is why the National Social Studies Standards (now Oklahoma's own Oklahoma Academic Standards) calls America a Constitutional Democracy instead of the Republic it really is.

The whole blog smacked of John Dewey - the Father of Progressive Education - who believed that - among other things - schools were little microcosms of the world and that we could just change all of society by keeping kids in school and away from their parents.

I simply could not let the post go without commenting, and this is what I said:
"The questions around promoting contentious conversations are messy. We raise schools up as institutions for democracy, even when they have historically fallen short of this ideal when it comes to persistent social ills, such as segregation, student dropout rates, poverty, and school violence."

Oh I totally agree. That's why I would immediately institute a conversation about Christianity and its contributions to America in my classroom - certainly a 'contentious' topic by any real examination of world views today.

And, though I'm a Christian - don't worry - I can handle the topic evenhandedly, and make sure all religions - including atheism - are also discussed. There will be nothing to worry about - I'm a teacher - I can handle it.

Since classrooms are really extensions of the great social experiment that is 'democracy', there is no reason this topic shouldn't be discussed in depth.

Who is the "we" that believes in raising up schools as "institutions for democracy"? I'm a conservative and I certainly don't believe that. I expect schools to teach the absolute BASICS and let parents - who are the experts in raising their own children - do all the "contentious" stuff at home.

Yes, there are a lot of 'throw away' kids out there today and most are produced by the very system that claims to help them. Many may not have support systems outside of school, but schools are not - and were never meant to be - a place to "cure social ills". That was historically the role of the church.

I always find it curious that the people who seem to scream the loudest about democracy (and the First Amendment), are the last to really practice it. I wonder if that's why people "often feel uneasy about such dialogues" in schools?
As a past public school educator and now a home educator, I think it IMPERATIVE to confront this nonsense when and where we see it.

Public school's lack of results today is simply an extension of Dewey's failed prescription for public schooling.  How can I say "failed"?  Well, let's look at the observable evidence.  Since the 1970's SAT scores have been falling. 

College Board National Report on 1996 College Bound Seniors - http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/CBS%2096%20National.PDF 

Progressive education began under Dewey in the late 20's and has been churning out teachers from Dewey-seeded teacher colleges since that time.  In fact, the liberal bend of universities is well documented, particularly by David Horowitz.

When I speak, I often refer to a section in the book "To Kill A Mockingbird" where Scout gives an account of the new teacher (she has red nails and high heels) and how she told Atticus to stop letting her read from the Wall Street Journal because she was now in charge of Scout's education and she would take care of that in class.  Scout then goes on to regale the reader with her frustration that this "Dewey Decimal System" of education as Jem called it, forces her to create project after project while everyone she ever knows - like Jem and her dad - were smart because they read books - something she itches to do over 'projects'.  That story was to have taken place in the 1930's - as Dewey's legion were crisscrossing America to take root in primary and secondary schools from cities to sleepy rural towns.

If this has been going on since the 30's, what in the world would it be like today?  Just what we're seeing - Common Core and all!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

STOP SAYING YOU'RE "JUST A MOM"!


Yesterday at our second Interim Study on the Common Core at the state Capitol, I met the sweetest lady.  We had been wondering about this gorgeous woman sitting in the corner (we usually have a clue who most of the people are, or are at least attached to, at these things), when she came up to us at a break and introduced herself.

She told us she was "Just a mom" who had been following our emails and was becoming more and more concerned about Common Core and didn't want her small (and quite excellent) school from becoming eaten by the Common Core blob.  She was exceptionally literate and had the intestinal fortitude and presence to introduce herself to people she didn't know because of a concern she had about the future of her children.

Does that sound like "Just a mom" to you?

What is it that has made us women -
women by the way who cook, clean, garden, help with homework, drag kids to every game, practice and recital known to human kind, sometimes work a second job (notice I said SECONDARY to MOTHERHOOD job), drag screaming kids out of theaters and restaurants, clean vomit off of floors and beds, schedule doctor, dentist and specialist appointments, wipe snot, stop the car on the shoulder of the highway to referee fights, talk to a teacher on the phone about a child while simultaneously navigating dinner and overseeing homework, vacuum, grocery shop, shop for clothes (normally having to not only clothe children but spouse as well), make sure everyone's band instrument is in working order and is ready to go to band, go back home to pick up the forgotten instrument, make sure everyone has their lunch before they get out of the house, come back home to pick up the lunch someone has forgotten, book tickets for the whole family to the one kids performance at the Thunder game, try and remember to juggle all family birthdays so no one is left out...
think we were JUST anything!

For Pete sakes, most women do the job of 10 men in any single given day.  Some women also have children with disabilities, adding an order of magnitude of difficulty to one already in the order of base 10 (I'm thinking of 10 to the 100th power!).

In fact, my husband tells me regularly that it irritates him daily that I work hard enough to earn a 6 figure salary but never really get paid a dime.

What made me think I was more than "JUST a mom"?  I don't know, I was probably just born feisty - I usually say that when I was born and the doctor spanked me to get me to cry I hit him back!  But in all honesty, I have regular mom duties that I have to add in to my Supermom-Activist activities and still and all, I seem to get most things (not cleaning, but most of the other important things) done in a day.

I am a mom and I am PROUD of that term - I LOVE being a mom (most days!).  I love the job and love the kids enough to FIGHT for them and so that is just what I do.  I don't think about it or ruminate on whether I'm QUALIFIED to fight for them, I'm already QUALIFIED because I'm their mother.  God gave those kids to me and it's MY job to mother them and raise them up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord" to be kind, intelligent, wise, servants of the Lord.  Who else holds that edict FOR me?  No one!  Consequently, I am EMINENTLY qualified to take on the job of mothering which also includes PROTECTION of my children from anything I SEE as a threat - and I SEE Common Core as a THREAT to their intellect and way of life.  Therefore, I will fight for my kids against Common Core because I am QUALIFIED to do so!

For some reason, women have let people - from all walks of life - but particularly Superintendents, Principals, teachers and legislators - think we are not smart enough to engage in the learning of our children.  We needn't be consulted on the ways and methods our children are being taught - we've got better things to do.

THIS MUST STOP!  WE ARE NOT 'JUST' MOTHERS!  It is time for ALL MOMS to stand up and realize that we do more work than 20 people in one day and we can CERTAINLY find time to also comprehend and engage in the education of our children!  It is time - HIGH time - that we started realizing that WE and WE ALONE have the power to effect change in our communities, states and nation - for and on behalf of our children - if for no other reason.

We are QUALIFIED to FIGHT for our children and we will do so - no matter WHAT anyone says!  And the crowd all said, "Amen"!

PS:  And if you'd like a LIST that gives you just a few MOMS that are involved in trying to stop Common Core, let me just give you a start right here:

Yvonne Gasperino from Stop Common Core New York
Alisa Ellis, Renee Brady and Christel Swasey from What is Common Core
Christy Hooley from Wyoming Against Common Core
Joy Pullman (working mom AND Common Core Fighter) from the Heartland Institute
Kristin George of Kansans Against Common Core
Heidi Huber of Ohioans Against Common Core
Heather Crossin and Erin Tuttle from Indiana - Hoosiers Against Common Core
Stephanie Zimmerman of Stop Common Core Idaho

In fact, there are COUNTLESS pages of Stop Common Core - fill in the state - on Facebook.  I'll bet you 10 to 1 there's a MOM at the center of EACH!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Common Core Ushers In The Police State - America's New Way Of Life


I was mortified when I went out looking for a photo to add to this blog and found this picture on Bing.com images.  I'm sure this was not an actual Newsweek cover, but it sure could be!

Anymore, I frequently ponder the movie "Minority Report", detailing a world in which everyone was GUILTY until proven INNOCENT and you could be jailed for a crime BEFORE it was even committed because the police (government) had enough data on you to determine your every move.  Of course the journey for the cop at the center of the story - the one who had been such a proponent of the 'predictive' software used by the police - is to discover that even he has no liberty in the end.

We are heading for a police state in this country and people aren't noticing it because it's been a long, slow road getting here - a 'death by small cuts'.

We don't think about having to be fingerprinted or scanned to get into our kid's school because long ago the state made us put our picture on our driver's license with a bar code that can be scanned anywhere to reveal our personal information.  But we have to drive, we figure, so we'll put up with that (except for my brave friend Kaye Beach who is actually fighting this nonsense on religious grounds!).  Or, we think we need to fly, so we'll let TSA agents grope us like perverts because we're now presumed to be TERRORISTS until they find NOTHING on us - a presumption of GUILT instead of INNOCENCE.

This really hit home for me in a big way when I saw this video of a man standing up at a Common Core 'Forum'  in Maryland where a school board had an open time for parents to ask questions, but then wouldn't take direct questions from parents.

Attendees had to submit questions to the board in writing and then individual questions were asked from the pile of questions. (Gosh, how many legislative Town Hall meetings have begun using this tactic?)

Apparently, answers were not forthcoming at this meeting in the manner parents expected.

ROPE isn't surprised, we've seen this before over and over in Oklahoma where, for example, the State Superintendent filibusters for 25 minutes before even getting to the question of Common Core at the Common Core Forum in Tulsa in August and then repeats classic Common Core messaging for every answer to every question - or where the Superintendent makes comments like, "We anticipate low costs" when asked about how much Common Core will cost.

At the last (and I mean probably the LAST we will attend) board meeting we attended - where we were FINALLY going to be allowed to speak at all on Common Core (July 25) - a husband and wife from Edmond had seen our plea to come speak about Common Core at the Board Meeting - and they came.  The husband was an Airman at Tinker Air Force Base.  After speaking out against the Common Core, the Airman had a seat.  Upon listening to Amber England with Stand for Children tell everyone at the meeting that the military were all for Common Core, the airman's wife reacted by blurting out, "You don't speak for the military."

Good Lord, you would have thought she pulled out an AK47 and began to cut down everyone in the room the way Superintendent Barresi and Board Member Amy Ford nearly came across the table at the woman, screaming something to the effect of, "You need to be quiet or you'll be removed!" as if they saw her as an imminent threat to their lives. (This can all be found on the audio recording from that meeting just in case you want to check me up on my story).

At any rate, ROPE isn't surprised at what happened to the poor parent in Maryland who DARED to try to get some answers from a school board and was FORCIBLY REMOVED from the forum by a police officer and later provided with the charges of
second-degree assault of a police officer and faces a $2,500 fine and up to 10 years in prison. He was also charged with disturbing a school operation, which carries an additional $2,500 and up to six months in jail.
He absolutely did NOT assault the police officer - the police officer assaulted HIM - and if you watch the video you will see that.

WHAT IS MAKING THESE PEOPLE SO ANGRY?  What is it about the Common Core State Standards that means you can't answer questions about them, but send people out in an audience like a mobster to break the arms of parents who merely try to ask questions?

As the man leaves the hall at the forum, he tells people they are sitting there like 'cattle'.  Fortunately, as I went back to listen to it again, I definitely heard at least two or three people stick up for the guy and tell the 'powers that be' to let him stay - obviously to no avail.  There were MANY people in that room apparently.  What should have happened is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THAT ROOM SHOULD HAVE STOOD UP and deflected that policeman- turned-board-body guard and stuck up for the man.  He was not being rude or ugly or screaming and shouting, he was just tired of not having questions answered and spoke out of turn.

How long are we going to be rule followers when it seems that the PROPONENTS aren't following 'the rules'?  How long are we going to let educrats and those making money off  school 'reform' measures pull us around by our ears and tell us how they're going to spend the money we are forced to contribute to such a broken system?  A system so broken that many parents have given up and now pay TWICE - once for public school and again to a private school or for home school curricula because they refuse to allow their kids to partake of an education that is not only not helping them, but hurting them, their development and their worldview.

I've said it before and I'll say it again....it's time for Civil Rights era tactics.  If we're not going to be heard, we'll sit quietly until we are - even if that is well after time to close up shop!  If we're not going to be heard, we need to take our children out of public schools and deny them their funding until schools again work for PARENTS and CHILDREN and not software developers, book sellers and politicians.

I fear that Common Core is just one of the symptoms of a parasitic disease that is slowly killing its host - America.  I leave you with the following quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Feds Use State Databases Against Them - So Why Do States Want Grants to Set Them Up Again?


Recently I wrote an article for School Reform News, "Obama Administration Demands Teacher Redistribution for NCLB Waiver".  Although the administration's newest excuse to use their SOCIAL JUSTICE stick is certainly inappropriate, unfortunately, one of the most incredible, dangerous and unbelievable things in my mind was not able to be included for space.

This was the fact that it CLEARLY stated in the paperwork for the NCLB part deux waivers that the federal government was going to collect state data - collected from district schools and sent to the state level - to judge whether or not a state was worthy of a second waiver.

Here is the part of the article that was not published.



Using Their Own Data Against Them,

The ESEA Guidance document states, “In July 2013, the Department began an analysis of data” from 2010-2012 to determine “the relationship between the following factors” and how schools were identifying outcomes.  Of the six factors used for analysis were student achievement, graduation rate and participation rate on state assessments.  

States wishing to extend their NCLB waiver are told that if data analysis indicates their state has not been identifying low-performing schools and subgroups appropriately or properly, the Department will work with the state to correct any and all issues identified.  Furthermore, the state will not receive a renewal of ESEA flexibility until the issues are corrected to ED’s satisfaction.

ESEA flexibility requirements, such as those for developing and implementing college and career ready standards and testing, generally align with those requirements provided by ED for successful Race to the Top grant (RTTT) application.  One of the RTTT requirements - that of “Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction” – has been duplicated under the National Center for Education Statistics by way of a federal State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grant.

Not surprisingly, all but three states have applied for and accepted federal money to create and institute a database within their state to collect educational information on students from kindergarten through 12th grade as well as develop and link databases for early childhood education data and postsecondary and/or workforce data.  Quite apparently, states have been successful in this endeavor.  States have used their federal SLDS money to provide ED with all the data they need to further manipulate state education reform plans, all the while generating great controversy over student privacy.



Another part of the article that was not published had to do with the fact that schools would ALSO be forced to 'inform' parents of the new reforms.



Informing Or Cheerleading 

Another new requirement for successful waiver extension is the necessity for states to “meaningfully engage and solicit input from diverse stakeholders and communities on its request”.  States must provide evidence for this effort and are given five categories of admissible proof which includes, “copies of parent-friendly information regarding the renewal submission, including accessible formats and translated as necessary.”  

Minus the requirement for evidence, the necessity to include ways in which public comment were solicited were found in the first waiver documentation – “SEA must also provide a description of how the SEA meaningfully engaged and solicited input”. Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver contained approximately 56 pages of community input.  Much of the included commentary was in the form of questions to Oklahoma State Department of Education concerning the waiver, or general comments about the individual requirements.  The only specific comments regarding NCLB were against application for a waiver, yet the waiver was granted.  

It remains to be seen whether requirements to inform the community will result in efforts more akin to cheerleading than actual objective, dispassionate information sharing regarding NCLB waiver application.


Kind of makes you wonder why those of us speaking against Common Core are having such trouble getting a toe hold!  When taxpayer money is used to PROMOTE an AGENDA that has neither been proven or studied and parents (also taxpayers) are not able to hear BOTH sides of this particular AGENDA, is that fair?  Is that honest?  Heck, is that even morally right - considering the fact that many taxpayers NOT being told both sides of the issue might decide they don't like it?  Oh, hmmm...not so hard to figure out after all, is it?

Teacher EFFECTIVENESS or CONFORMITY?


This was sent to me by Christy Hooley, a teacher in Wyoming who is part of our Truth in American Education Network.  She gave me permission to post the information she sent me in a blog format.

ROPE has long been concerned about the Teacher Leader Effectiveness program in Oklahoma.  Of course, this legislation was part of the larger - nationwide push through Race to the Top - to hold teachers 'accountable' for the grades of their students.  


We've never been on board with this particular aspect primarily because, as a former teacher, I know for a fact that a whole lot of the grades kids get have nothing to do with me.  They could've been out late the night before, their parents could have had an argument and it was causing the child to be preoccupied, they're thinking about the girl in the next row over and not their test...

What Christy explains here should make teachers cringe.  I truly believe that the idea is to get teachers unwilling to follow the 'program' to leave, allowing younger, more inexperienced, more worldly teachers - primarily through Teach For America - to come into the classroom and push the current Presidential administration's philosophical agenda.

Christy did an interview with Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute.  It is not long.  I wish you would take the time to listen, it is very enlightening.

In the meantime, Oklahoma has apparently gone with Battelle for Kids version of a teacher evaluation system.  This is interesting for three reasons:

1.  Our new  "Secretary of Education and Workforce Development" - Robert Sommers is from Ohio, the home of Battelle.  It makes me wonder how Battelle was picked.

2.  They have something on their website called the "Student Experience Survey".  When I asked Battelle if I could see the survey, they replied that I could for $230.00 - the cost of the survey.  I am VERY concerned what kind of student behavioral data will be plucked from this particular 'survey'.

3.  They say this on the "Human Capital" portion of their website, "Human capital in education must be comprehensive and aligned with education-improvement goals."  WHAT?  Please tell me people remember that Human Capital was the catch-phrase used to describe the workers in the Communist system?

4.  They also push the Common Core.


At any rate, you get the idea...Here is Christy's story:
The state of Wyoming uses McREL's Teacher Evaluation System.
It assesses a teacher's performance as it relates to the Professional Teaching Standards.  These Professional Teaching Standards are the basis for teacher preparation, teacher evaluation, and professional development.  Each standard includes the skills and knowledge needed for 21st century teaching and learning.

Here is what is stated on their page:

A NEW VISION OF TEACHING
The different demands on 21st century education dictates new roles for teachers in their classrooms an schools.  These new roles reflect a deeper understanding about the content knowledge, skills, competencies, and outcomes that define a successful student in the 21st century.  Teachers must understand what comprises a 21st century education and how their practice must reflect the demands of the education in order to realize a new vision of teaching. 

These are the standards:

  1. Teachers Demonstrate Leadership
  2. Teachers Establish a Respectful Environment for a diverse population of students
  3. Teachers Know the Content They Teach
  4. Teachers Facilitate Learning for Their Students
  5. Teachers Reflect on their practice

These are broken down with very detailed information for each. 
Teachers are rated as either: Developing, Proficient, Accomplished,or Distinguished

I found it extremely concerning at my end of the year evaluation, that my administrator chose not to give me a distinguished verses accomplished rating on the sub section of standard 4: 

Here is section f:
Standard 4 Section f states "Teachers help students work in teams and develop leadership qualities.  Teachers teach the importance of cooperation and collaboration. They organize learning teams in order to help students define roles, strengthen social ties, improve communication and collaborative skills, interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds, and develop leadership qualities."

My administrator mentioned she felt I needed to attend a particular training about collaborative teams she felt strongly about, before I could be marked higher.  We debated It back and forth a bit but of course it was her ultimate choice where to rate me. 

My concern after reflecting on this process,  is that this is truly about control, control of how and even what a teacher teaches.  Eventually, had I decided I would need to have a higher rating to keep my job I would need to take the training my administrator suggested, even if it was against my personal philosophy as a teacher. 

The fact that my administrator can come into my classroom a handful of times, if I'm lucky, even in a very small district and be able to give a TRUE evaluation of my teaching is ludicrous  .The majority of the teachers I speak with roll their eyes and just "jump through the hoops".  Test scores being tied into this is something that should wake more of us up!!  I am trying but teachers truly are either apathetic, or afraid of losing their job or see it as "just talk". 

Christy Hooley

The Dirty Little Secret of Common Core


What is appropriate reading material for children?  It is certainly an excellent question, begged by the absolute stipulation that it must have parental approval, so how does a parent find out?  Well, there are countless reading lists across the internet - it's super easy to just Google, "middle school reading list" for example and you'll retrieve a number to choose from. 

I remember several years ago having the occasion to be in the library of Deer Creek Middle School.  As I was waiting for one of my daughters to participate in an activity, I began to look over the book summaries posted on the walls of the library.  I was actually shocked at what I found.  In fact, I was so shocked, that I started looking into middle school reading lists and did a whole series on reading lists.  Though these are several years old now, I would take the time to study these.  You may not know what your child is reading and moreover, you may not know what kind of books are available in the school library or what the school is assigning to be read.  Unfortunately, it's not hyperbole that the older kids get, the less likely they are to spontaneously inform unsuspecting parents of anything they might be afraid would provoke a reaction at home.

Just recently, at an Oklahoma state school board meeting, we heard a boy (recently graduated) explaining how much fun it had been to be in this super cool non-traditional classroom setting where they got to read the book Unwind.  This book is basically about 'aborting' children after the age of 14 if they are unwanted/needed/desired.  I feel certain this would set off very stimulating discussion in the college crowd, but is this really a shining example of what kids in 6-12 grades should be reading?  Shouldn't these kids be reading something like CS Lewis or TH White for example?

This thought occurred to me as I read a very pornographic depiction of the book "Bluest Eyes",  (Toni Morrison, author), by an Oregon mother who had realized the volume was included on the Common Core State Standards Appendix B - the document that provides literary examples for use in the classroom with ALL Common Core standards.

But wait, shortly afterward, I read an article about an Arizona mom who decided to check into these 'exemplars' herself and found another pornographic book called "Dreaming in Cuban".  Immediately, she contacted a local organization who involved the press, creating such a stir that Arizona pulled the book.

I then stumbled upon a story about a high school English teacher FORCED to have students,
"Write an essay that compares the cultural experience reflected in To Kill a Mockingbird and The Mother of Monsters and explain how this experience helped a character demonstrate individuality in the face of outside pressure." 
She finally describes the lesson this way,
"This is obviously a pro-abortion message. This story paired with this assignment is a repulsive perversion of the concept of “lesson”; it is a corruption of anything descent and good."
"There is something deeply repulsive in this lesson, especially as it is aimed at students as young as 13."
Chester Finn of the Fordham Institute calls these recent concerns about the Common Core, "arcane", attributing the flap to
"the blurry border between academic standards and classroom curricula."
Okay, everyone is entitled to their opinions, however, it's important to point out here that Mr. Finn is a Common Core proponent whose organization has been paid big bucks by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to essentially prop them up and serve as their apologist.  That kind of makes Mr. Finn's argument here...shallow.

I have to admit, however, he does have a point on the 'blurry border' business.

As soon as the standards were adopted by most states in 2010, the horn sounded and publishers were off to the races.  Within a matter of months there were publishers everywhere stamping "Common Core Aligned" on their textbooks to take advantage of the 'new' market.  Catherine Gewertz had a great article in July, where she quipped,
all you need to do is take one step to trip over materials that are allegedly aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Certainly, this is great for the Free Market and all, but, truly, how are any of us - parents, taxpayers, administrators, teachers - supposed to know definitively what is and isn't Common Core related?  But then again, does it matter whether it's Common Core aligned or not?

Oklahoma has changed the name of our standards to the Oklahoma Academic Standards even though when you click on the link to the Standards they go directly to the Common Core pages!  In fact, when a ROPE Facebook follower saw the post we made on Bluest Eyes, she contacted our State Department of Education and was told



Is it truly appropriate to have the kind of reading material mentioned here in ANY high school in America?  I would argue no.

Parents, PLEASE...take the time to look over the information your child is bringing home from school.  Ask your child's teachers what is being taught!  Stay informed and help us FIGHT COMMON CORE!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Failing at Common Core - A First Hand Account By Oklahoma Parent Kristal Picolet






I am turning the blog today over to a parent.  Her name is Kristal Picolet.  

One day, out of the blue, she messaged me and began telling me about her experiences with her son in Colorado where all the standards had been moved to Common Core.  She and her husband made a job-related move here to Oklahoma and she speaks glowingly of how much better her son has done here in Oklahoma.  She felt compelled to speak out about her experiences now, since she has found her son's school is transitioning into the Common Core as all schools in Oklahoma are to be doing by 2014. 
 

Failing at Common Core
By: Kristal Picolet
Oklahoma Parent

I was a typical mom who was excited and eager to send her children off to their first day of Kindergarten. School would be so much fun, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they absorbed; to watch them learn and grow, and hear their stories. To enjoy and encourage them while they mastered the ability to learn how to read, write, and discover numbers. 

My baby boy was learning how to read! I treasured each moment at bedtime listening to him read me stories. He was very choppy, but he was five, and he was learning all of this complicated stuff for the very first time. Aren’t they supposed to be choppy? I recall thinking how amazing it was to watch him study and discover each word. It was so cute, because he wasn’t fluid, his sweet little voice trying to sound out each word or letter and I quietly enjoyed watching while his little brain ticked. 

After the first progress report, his teacher explained that he had a hard time in school. She said he struggled trying to memorize word patterns, dialogues, and memory blocking.

Obviously, we were concerned. Why can’t he memorize like the other students? Why can’t he write a personal narrative as well as Sam or Trina? Why does he continually receive the lowest assessment grade in reading, despite the fact that night after night we sit with him in his room and he reads to us perfectly fine? Again, very choppy, but we could always see definite progress. Why couldn’t he write those two sentences explaining all those math problems? 

As time passed our son began to have behavior problems, and we were constantly having meetings and conferences with his teacher. She would state, “He’s just not getting it. He’s falling behind.” We as parents couldn’t understand. Why would any five year old be considered a complete failure? Where was the encouragement? Why was he stressed out after only a few short months into school?

Immediately, I began to volunteer heavily in the classroom. I watched the teacher pass out worksheet after worksheet, and it was certainly rigorous, mainly due to the excessive amount of materials being covered. Most of the material was strictly introduced with little to no repetition. The children were expected to sit quietly in their seat the entire 8 hours, there were no centers, nothing hands-on, and quite frankly not much of it was engaging. Even I, myself as an adult struggled with boredom as she was presenting all this “stuff”. 

I noticed the majority of his class was fidgeting, laying their heads on their desk, twitching, giving blank stares, etc. She was presenting materials fast and furious, all of which mostly flew right over their heads. I realized at that very moment, it wasn’t just my son struggling. All those other students whom I thought were so far advanced were also having the same issues. How can 24 students be failing, in kindergarten? 

Quite often we would have anywhere from 4-8 pages of homework since the teacher didn’t have enough time to finish all of the heavy amounts of coursework in class. From kindergarten to 1st grade, and now into 2nd grade it was a challenge as our son continued to snowball further and further behind - or was he? 

After finally getting that one teacher who wasn’t too scared to say anything and whom I had built a solid reputation with after many hours volunteering in her classroom…she leaned over to whisper this during our parent teacher conference, "I have to give your child this pacesetter score (also known as common core standard grading), but I also want to give you this sheet as well", which she had handwritten, "this tells you how your child is really doing in my class." 

Huh? What? The pacesetter score was so complicated and rhetorical, nobody, including the teacher, could possibly calculate an actual grade. And now after three long exasperating years of this we as parents hear for the first time and are finally able to put all the pieces together, “Common Core.” The new secret curriculum none of us parents have ever heard about. 

We knew all along something wasn’t quite right and that our son really wasn’t that dumb, but by this point he hated school so much that trying to get him engaged was like banging our heads, his head and the teachers head against a concrete wall. 

Finally, it all clicked. We began to research common core, meet with the principal and our administrators and ask LOTS of questions. The grading was so subjective that nobody could even explain it. There were no clear, precise or solid expectations. The more research we did and the more information his teacher relayed to us (confidentially of course) we soon discovered how poorly common core was preparing students, specifically our own children. By this time all of the really good teachers and principals had either quit or retired, so it left us no choice. We decided to move as far away from common core as possible. We researched states that currently offered a traditional education. 

That spring of 2012 my husband’s job transferred us to the Oklahoma area. After just one year in a traditional school setting our son began to love reading and love school. He began to soar in all subjects. We no longer had a battle trying to just get him up and ready for school. He for the first time saw how clear and precise his expectations were and that he could actually reach to obtain a specific goal or task, and he did. Oh, how he did! He went from 0’s and 1’s, “partially proficient” and “rarely demonstrating required benchmarks” to a straight “A” student, practically overnight. 

He was nominated for student of the month, he began to receive perfect 100’s in spelling (mainly because common core doesn’t even include spelling in the curriculum), and he even told us that school was fun.  It was a huge relief to see him actually learning, and with such positive enthusiasm, excitement, and success. Lots of success!! We as parents could not believe the difference.  In fact, we even noticed a huge difference because for the first time we started seeing standard, very traditional homework assignments such as spelling tests and normal math. Not fuzzy math or integrated math. 

Our son was actually taught sentence structure, capitalization, as well as punctuation. He was asked to write about his favorite animal or his favorite sport rather than just handing him a blank piece of paper with no clear direction and expecting him to write independently an entire personal narrative or progressive poetry about his favorite “things.”   

We received our first traditional report card; it was so easy to understand. The teacher didn’t have to explain any of it, it was obvious what grade he had received and why.  His perspective changed, our family life changed, drastically. Our attitudes went from exhausted, frustrated and failing to encouraging, understanding and successful.  Our son learned and retained more in one year doing education the traditional way than three long exhausting years failing at common core the 21st century, never been tested way. 

 Each child is so much more than just one single test or obscure benchmarks.  I went back and found that “Common Core Standards Grading” PowerPoint slideshow (all 16 pages).  It was relayed to us parents during a two-hour parent presentation explaining how our child was going to be graded. Even after 3 years of them pushing all of this so called quality curriculum and dozens of pacesetter grades, still to this day the only single grade we ever understood was this, FAILURE over and over.  

How does that prepare any child to become a future leader, a future employee, or to reach new heights and tackle life head on? It’s similar to teaching an infant two-month old how to walk.