War on Common Core comes to Maine

I thought that Maine was going to avoid this craziness, but I guess not. This was in today’s Press Herald:

Effort to put Common Core repeal on ballot under way
Opponents of new educational standards are highlighting a campaign to repeal them in Maine through a statewide vote.
Representatives from the Maine Equal Rights Center and No Common Core Maine announced during a news conference Wednesday that they’ll soon begin gathering signatures to place a measure to repeal the Common Core Standards on the November 2014 ballot.
The groups were flanked during the event at the Capitol by supporters holding signs expressing sentiments such as “Stop experimenting, start educating.”
The opponents argue that the standards usurp local control from school districts and should be left up to the voters.
But Maine education officials say the standards are merely educational goals and that districts still make curriculum decisions.
The Common Core Standards have been adopted by 45 states.

Just to be clear – The Common Core is not a federal takeover of education. The Common Core is not part of a socialist or communist agenda to program automatons. The Common Core is not telling me what to say or how to say it in my classroom.

The Common Core is, in fact, a set of internationally benchmarked standards that were written by teachers and university professors. The Common Core only applies to mathematics and English (Language Arts). These standards give me guidelines for what I should be teaching, but they do not tell me how to teach.

They say things like (and this is just a very small sampling)

  • Second graders should understand place value
  • Third graders should multiply and divide within 100 and develop understanding of fractions as numbers (instead of pie wedges)
  • Sixth graders should be able to write, read, and evaluate expressions in which letters stand for numbers and also summarize and describe distributions of data
  • Eighth graders should be able to solve real-world and mathematical problems involving cylinders, cones, and spheres

Once I get to teach these students in high school, they should be learning how to (again, a small sampling)

  • Perform arithmetic operations with complex numbers and represent complex numbers on the complex plane
  • Create and reason with equations and inequalities using symbolic, numeric, and graphical forms
  • Analyze and build functions that model relationships between pairs of variables
  • Use congruence and similarity to prove geometric theorems and properties about shapes
  • Interpret, represent, and describe data in one or two variables
  • Make inferences and justify conclusions (sometimes using probability theory) from sample surveys, experiments, and observational studies

In addition to the content, the Common Core includes these 8 Mathematical Practices, habits of mind or work that good mathematicians use:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  4. Model with mathematics
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically
  6. Attend to precision (referring to numbers and language here)
  7. Look for and make use of structure
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

While I know that some teachers are worried about the grade-level placement of some topics, I don’t know many who are actually arguing about the content of these math standards. Those concerns are driving discussions about content.

How is any of this bad for kids?

The Smarter Balanced assessments aligned with the common core standards will help me to better prepare my students to participate in the global economy in ways that preparing them for the SAT (our current high school accountability test) will not. Curious about the assessment? Go take a look at some sample items or take the practice test.

I really wish that those who say they are opposed to the Common Core would actually read them. At the very least they should turn off the cable news channels and talk with some teachers. I’m happy to have a conversation about standards-based education and why the Common Core standards are better than the previous set of state standards that we had, even though there are still some things I’d like to change.

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