A recent article in the Bottom Line that outlined an interview with Stephen Pruitt, Kentucky’s new Education Commissioner, where Mr. Pruitt unfortunately voiced support for continuing the experimentation on our children through the Common Core system of education.
Ironically, Commissioner Pruitt said that throwing the standards out would be harmful to teachers and students. I say ironically because the implementation of Common Core standards has caused more harm and confusion than any other change to our education system. A recent poll by the education organization NextEd http://educationnext.org/2015-ednext-poll-school-reform-opt-out-common-core-unions/ shows that teacher support for Common Core has dropped from 76% in 2013, to 46% in 2014 and now 40% in 2015. Among the general public, support has dropped from 65% in 2013, to 53% in 2014 to 49% in 2015.
What do teachers and general public know that Stephen Pruitt doesn’t know? We know that Common Core, in Kentucky, requires students to undergo excessive amounts of testing. 5th graders alone, according to the JCPS 2014-15 Assessment Calendar, are required to sit for 8 science assessment tests, 8 math assessment tests, and 8 language arts assessment tests on top of KPREP testing. The total is 24 hours of assessment plus 8 ½ hours of KPREP testing for a total of 32 ½ hours during the school year.
We know about Curriculum Frameworks in each district that tell teachers when to teach certain Common Core standards, in coordination with the assessment test schedules. We know about the curriculum maps in every district that tells the teachers how to teach the standards. We know that any attempt by a teacher to use a textbook that is not on the Kentucky Textbook Committee list requires pages of justification, the signature of the school’s Principal and the signature of the District Superintendent before being approved by the State.
More than that, we know the struggles that our students are going through as a result of this indefensible experimentation on our children. Many of the Common Core requirements were simply pulled down from one grade level to the previous grade level. Requiring 3rd graders to perform algebra BEFORE they know their 1-12 times tables. Asking them to “Identify the Dividend, divisor, and quotient in 24 ÷ 6 =” before they fully know how to divide. The timed readings, the lack of emphasis on phonics, and the number lines all make the children confused, frustrated and hate learning. Ask any parent or any, as the NextEd poll shows, and you’re likely to get an earful of complaints about Common Core.
Knowing all of this, Commissioner Pruitt’s concern about the “cost” is as infuriating as it is ridiculous. How can we afford NOT to scrap Common Core? This is the future of our children. Kentucky has languished in the bottom 10% of all states in education and by extension in median income for too long. The last eight years, we have had a Governor and Commissioners of Education who were much more interested in gathering up all of the Federal Race to the Top money he could get his hands one than in the education of our children.
Kentuckians Against Common Core is calling for the following process to replace Common Core, similar to the process that the state of Tennessee has indicated it would be following. We propose that the state Senate nominate an equal number of stakeholders from three groups: 1) Kentucky parents of school age children; 2) classroom teachers and 3) education experts from Western Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville. It would be recommended that there be two groups formed from the three groups above, one for grades K-6 and one for grades 7-12. The two groups would review many standards including but not limited to: Texas State School Standards, Pre-Common Core Massachusetts State School Standards, Virginia State School Standards as well as standards from abroad if desired. The teams would then rewrite the K-12 Kentucky standards and present them to the Senate education committee. The standards would then be presented and comment made at meetings in every school district in Kentucky. After gaining opinion from across the state, the standards may be revised and finalized for presentation to the State legislature. The state legislature would then vote on the standards with a simple majority vote. The standards would then be signed by the Governor, or if vetoed return to the legislature for revote where a 2/3 majority in the Senate would override the veto. If 2/3 could not be obtained, then the process repeats until signed into law by the Governor.
We feel that setting this process as precedent would not only result in a common sense set of standards that are representative of the values of Kentuckians, but would prevent future overreach by any Governor using Executive Action to impose his or her will on the state without proper consent of the people, such as Governor Beshear’s clearly unconstitutional action in implementing Common Core science standards.
I hope that Commissioner Pruitt will actually listen to teachers, parents and students and support this effort. It is time for Kentucky to place our children above the partisan games in Frankfort, above the states addiction to Federal handouts and above the experimental desires of theoretical educators and administrators. Our children must finally come first in Kentucky.
Kentuckians Against Common Core