Try as we may to make the new school year full of fresh starts and new community relationships, we will need to become more proactive on a number of fronts concerning the Common Core.
We project and recently heard some rumblings that next week’s annual Gallup/PDK poll may indicate that public support of the Common Core continues to wane. If that’s what the report says, it will most likely be the headline in next week’s media reports.
The anti-Common Core movement has made its mark. Some parents and others are following the big misinformation mantra of critics, saying it is a national curriculum that was not developed by teachers and other informed educators. (Remember to go to NSPRA’s Common Core Communication Network and the Learning First Alliance’s Get It Right resources to review the facts on Common Core standards and implementation.)
Time to Take the Battle to the Local Level
Since education leaders, for more than two years now, have failed to get out front on this issue, we must once again play catch up to dissolve the misleading perceptions about the Common Core. Critics have defined Common Core and it is a daunting task to overcome the current misleading rhetoric. But we can do it if local educators realize that communication and engagement are the two keys to making Common Core work for their districts.
The best and most efficient approach at this stage of the roll-out is to get aggressive at the local level, one school district and school at a time. Local school leaders and teachers always have more credibility with their communities than state lawmakers who make decisions from afar or those aligned with marching orders from groups who may benefit from the demise of the Common Core.
Consider these local strategies and activities:
- Ask Parents: Which Standard Are You Against for Your Child?
Dr. C.J. Huff, superintendent of Joplin Schools in Missouri, shared this approach with me at our recent National Seminar in Baltimore. He asks parents to visit with him and he runs through the standards, asking, “Which standard are you against for the well-being of your child?” Most often, parents cannot disagree with the standards, and they realize that it is not a national curriculum and that, with Common Core, local districts still decide the best methods to teach their local students. Huff finds that they realize that most of the rhetoric by critics does not pertain to their child or their schools.
- Creating New Standards Wastes Time and Money
A few states are working on their own standards. One completed its draft only to have it rejected by a state legislative body because it was too much like the Common Core State Standards. That, in itself, proves something. It seems to some that professionals who understand education standards agree about what is best for students. Of course, some may choose to have others who don’t know what they are doing create a new set of standards for their children — good luck with that process.
And the irony for those in the fiscal conservative camp is that we rarely hear about how much it will cost to develop the new state standards as well as the specialized testing for their own set of new standards. Those costs will most likely be passed onto local taxpayers at a time when today’s parents and other taxpayers negatively view the idea of spending more money on tests and standards. When those taxes go up, let’s hope that the public realizes that these costs were brought to them by their state legislatures.
Sitting down with parents and reviewing the new college and career-ready standards will help clear the air when it comes to Common Core standards.
- Don’t Fail Our Children Now
For years, educators have been asked to improve our schools and make our students more competitive, no matter where they live. To move our schools in that direction, we must set our standards at appropriate levels to help all educators and students aspire to new levels of achievement.
Now is not the time to falter in pursuing better education for all students.
Make it known through communication and engagement efforts that you are committed to high levels of teaching and learning so that your students will have every opportunity to become productive members of your school community.
And as technology shrinks the world, you can also ask your students’ parents and others to ensure that your local students be just as accomplished as students in other school districts throughout our land.
Now is not the time to falter on that commitment to our children.
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director