2016ers Should Take Note: Top Teachers Reject Common Core

Joy Pullman had an excellent piece this week in The Federalist highlighting some of our nation’s best teachers and their opposition to the Common Core.

Any candidate considering a bid for the presidency should be looking closely at the grassroots movement opposing the Common Core. This movement doesn’t just consist of concerned parents, but teachers as well.

The first, Nancie Atwell, won the inaugural Global Teacher Prize, which “intends to be the ‘Nobel Prize for teachers'” and comes with a prize of one million dollars which she donated to her school. On “New Day” she was asked what she would tell kids who wanted to be teachers when they grew up. She responded:

“Um, honestly, right now I encourage them to look in the private sector,” Atwell replied. “Because public-school teachers are so constrained right now by the Common Core standards, and the tests that are developed to monitor what teachers are doing with them. It’s a movement that’s turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners. And if you are a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.”

The second teacher, Stacie Starr, winner of the National Top Teacher Award in 2014, had this to say:

‘I can’t do it anymore, not in this ‘drill ‘em and kill ‘em’ atmosphere,’ she said. ‘I don’t think anyone understands that in this environment if your child cannot quickly grasp material, study like a robot and pass all of these tests, they will not survive.’…

‘Each and every day, I have to look in my students’ eyes and tell them I can’t help them because the state has decided they have to prove what they know…It’s just hard because, as teachers, we are playing a game where the rules keep changing,’ she said.

Starr resigned her teaching job as a direct result of the standards. Cynthia Jones, an inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame told The Federalist:

“They’re saying to teachers, ‘This is going to help you,’ no it’s not,” she told me by phone one day, right before skipping off to tutor some students. “They say it’s going to be richer than your paper-and pencil-tests because it’s going to teach higher-level thinking skills. If you’re going to teach higher-level critical thinking, you teach higher-level critical thinking. The only thing I can find in their materials is because they’re going to ask children to write it’s teaching critical thinking skills. No, it’s not. It’s asking children to write a line or explanatory paragraph. None of their major rationales hold water on just a cursory look. It’s bogus.”

Jones quit her teaching job after the principal of her school told her to shut down the class’ garden in order to spend more time teaching to the Common Core tests. Another nationally recognized teacher, Chasidy White, wrote an op-ed on her concerns with Common Core. She writes:

One of my favorite writings about education from Dr. King is a paper entitled ‘The Purpose of Education.’ In it, he wrote ‘To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.’

When I sit in faculty meetings about Common Core, I hear ‘curriculum specialists’ tell me that Common Core is here to stay and I must ‘embrace change.’ I am forced to drink the kool-aid. These specialists don’t tell us to search for facts about Common Core on our own, they simply tell us what the people paid to promote Common Core want us to know. Didn’t Dr. King want us to separate facts from fiction? Why are we only given information from sources paid to say Common Core is a good thing? Isn’t that the exact same type of propaganda Dr. King discussed in his writings about education? Shouldn’t we discuss why thousands of Americans are calling for a repeal of the standards?

The fifth teacher, Jamie Highfill, initially supported the standards, and even served on a committee to assist in their adoption. However, Highfill is now a vocal opponent of Common Core after seeing what it would do to her classroom. Highfill’s students were already the top performing students on the tests in her entire district, but in spite of this, she was still required to make changes to her lessons. She was asked to cut six weeks of poetry and fiction in favor of nonfiction texts. As she puts it:

“I can read the word ‘Camelot’ when we’re talking about the Kennedy administration, but if I don’t understand King Arthur, how can they understand the significance of that?”

To the 2016ers that are either currently sitting on the fence or even supportive of Common Core: what would your response be to these teachers? Gov. Bush? Gov. Walker? Gov. Christie? Gov. Kasich?

Terry Schilling is the executive director of American Principles in Action.