One of William Faulkner’s best known lines comes from Requiem for a Nun where he wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
And such is the endless debate by some who recoil at the sound of the words, “Common Core” and have called for Alabama to purge the standards we strive for in our schools from any real or perceived linkage to them. Forget the millions of dollars invested in training educators to be proficient in working with the Alabama College & Career standards. Forget the huge investment in tax dollars to get us where we are today.
And for God’s sake, never let a desire to educate our children get in the way of some political agenda.
So once again, at the state board work session on Aug. 10 we will go through another discussion about standards. A debate we have already wasted far too much time on for far too many years. Here is the resolution to be discussed:
“RESOLUTION RE-ESTABLISHING ALABAMA-AUTHORED ACADEMIC STANDARDS
Whereas on November 18, 2010 the Alabama State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards which were later modified as the Alabama College and Career Ready (ACCR) Standards; and
Whereas studies have shown that Common Core-based mathematics courses of study have reduced the number of students taking high level coursework both nationally and in Alabama; and
Whereas the richness of former literature-based English courses of study has been diminished by the current emphasis on informational texts; and
Whereas national math scores on NAEP fell for the first time in 25 years under the widespread adoption of the Common Core math curriculum; and
Whereas several Brookings Institute studies showed that those states which implemented the Common Core declined the most on the 2015 NAEP; and
Whereas the emphasis on the Common Core standards and accountability may have deterred smart, creative young people from entering into careers in public education; and
Whereas states should be the engines of innovation in public education to provide new models for success in curriculum, pedagogy, and assessments;
Now therefore the Alabama State Board of Education rescinds the adoption of the Common Core Standards, known as the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, with an effective date of the rescission to be August 1, 2018; and
The State Board of Education hereby directs the State Superintendent to commence work on the development of new academic standards in Mathematics and English/Language Arts to commence with all deliberate speed; and
Further, the State Board of Education hereby directs the State Superintendent to author a plan to develop the books and instructional materials to facilitate implementation of the new standards. Said plan shall be presented to the Board by its November meeting.”
And we are to take something this poorly thought through seriously? Something full of platitudes and little else? Were these Brookings Institute studies peer-reviewed? “may have deterred smart, creative young people from entering into careers in public education.” May have? Are you kidding me? What about a state superintendent who has consistently belittled the teaching profession? May have this had an influence who wants to be a teacher?
Of course, we have to throw in something about NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores. Our standards are why scores went down in Alabama from 2013 to 2015? Our 8th grade math scores on NAEP also dropped from 1990 to 1992, and from 2000 to 2003. Since this was long before we adopted the Alabama College & Career standards, what do we blame this on?
Truth is that NAEP scores on 4th grade math went UP from 2013 to 2015 in 21 jurisdictions, made no significant change in 14 and fell in 17. Eighth grade math went up in 12 jurisdictions, no significant change in 14 and fell in 15.
But why deal in real facts when you’re pushing a political agenda?
(And while we are speaking of NEAP and since we are constantly compared to Massachusetts because that is where our state superintendent is from, let the record show that from 1998 to 2015, 8th grade reading scores went up four points in Alabama and five points in Massachusetts. Fourth grade math scores rose 23 points in Alabama and 24 in Massachusetts from 1992 to 2015. So in our little ole under performing state with all our bad teachers and inadequate schools, we made as much progress as a state that spends $6,000 more per year per student.)
After reading this resolution I did something we seldom do in Alabama, I asked some educators what they thought about it. You know, people who are actually trained to work in classrooms with kids–something our state superintendent never did.
As you can imagine they think this resolution is one of the dumbest things they’ve ever seen and can not believe we are once again looking backwards instead of forward.
From one of the best principals I know: “I think I would throw up my arms and retire. People wanting to change our standards have no idea how much work, money and tears go into implementing new standards.”
A rural superintendent said, “Let’s just burn everything down and start over. This is unbelievable.”
A principal makes an important point: “No one takes into account funding was cut drastically in 2009 and our school lost a lot of support in the form of coaching, instruction and training. It’s not the standards. We are being slowly bled dry.”
“Disaster,” is how one superintendent describes eliminating our present standards. “This isn’t what educators support and we are the ones who it would impact. This would throw Alabama education into total chaos.”
Finally, a superintendent made an excellent point. “How many Republicans campaigned on repealing Obama care? But now they can’t decide what to replace it with and have gone no where with repeal. And the political desire for a symbolic repeal of our present standards without a suitable replacement would set us back for years.”
We have 730,000 public school students about to start a new school year. And what are we doing? Forgetting about what is best for them and pandering to a vocal minority of non-educators.