Common Core: a common response

Many, many years ago, when Congress was debating the Equal Rights Amendment, otherwise sensible people engaged in a conversation about the end of civilization as we know it. Part of the conversation went: “If a man comes to your house and knocks on your door and says he wants to spend the night there, you will have to let him, because he has equal rights.” The rest followed in a similar vein. All of it had to be true. They’d heard it at church, from the pulpit.
That bit of nostalgia comes to mind today because of the reaction nationwide to those school rules known as Common Core State Standards. Not only has the reaction been coast-to-coast, but – like the ERA uproar of 40 years ago – it has been bitter, sustained and based largely on misinformation passed on by people who 1) don’t know what they’re talking about and/or 2) have a world view into which Common Core fits neatly as a threat.
Have there been other national issues about which the citizenry adopted the ready-made opinions of others instead of doing the work required for independent thought? Yeah, like everyday. It’s actually gotten worse over time. It’s raining opinions up in here, and more pundits mean more opportunity to get your own biases affirmed. In that environment it may be pointless to promote the wisdom of doing some basic research before forming an opinion — except that’s what smart people do. And you, being a smart person anxious to get to the core of Common Core, might give extra weight to the reasoning of people who actually work in the field of education, instead of the fields of punditry or politics. Talk to teachers and principal you know about what goes on in their schools, now that North Carolina has spent two years with Common Core. You will find brainwashing is not the business they’re in.
For starters, read this letter to the editor published in the Sunday edition of The Free Press and written by a math coach at one of our schools:
In 2006, President George W. Bush named a National Math Panel to prepare a report (Foundations for Success) on the mathematics knowledge and skills that U.S. students need to compete for 21st century jobs. That panel reported that students did not understand the meaning and operations of fractions and are not prepared to logically solve problems. The National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers responded by naming members of the National Math Panel and others to prepare standards that allow U.S. students to compete for 21st century jobs. The resulting document was the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
This set of standards is different from those set by most states because they help students do much more than arithmetic.
Compute with numbers: the Common Core mathematics standards connect mathematical ideas in problems situations used in daily life. This helps students understand that learning mathematics (understanding quantities and their relationships) is important beyond the classroom.
One comparison between previous math tasks and those in the Common Core is:
Rather than only naming the factors of 24, students solve problems using the factors of 24. For example, if a class wishes to raise rabbits as a science fair project and they have 24 feet of fencing what are the dimensions of a pen that will allow their rabbits to have the greatest area for hopping?
This task engages students in identifying the factors of 24 for a real purpose, not just to produce “right answers.” In addition, it helps students see the relationship between area and perimeter using different geometric arrangements for the pen.
The proposal to eliminate the Common Core State Standards that were developed by mathematicians, math educators and cognitive scientists and replace them with standards written by people who do not have a conceptual understanding of mathematics and how children learn is frightening. The future education of generations of students is at stake. Would we want groups lacking knowledge of the work of doctors, lawyers, financial leaders and electricians to prepare the standards for their profession?
North Carolina boasts the Research Triangle Park where corporations from around the world headquarter their research and development operations. Understanding quantities and their relationships is the foundation for all the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines used in research and development. Yet, are we preparing our students with the knowledge and skills to compete for these jobs in the RTP?
Having been a writer of standards for mathematics (NCTM, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics), N.C. Essential Standards for Mathematic and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, I understand the absolute necessity to establish a “measuring stick” for teaching and learning.
My prayer is that we consider the future of the students of North Carolina and make decisions that open doors and provide opportunities for them to be successful, productive citizens.
Carol Midgett, MEd, NBCT
Math coach at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School

Now take the time to read this guide to Common Core written for parents. Then you can check out the blue million videos on You Tube about Common Core, both pro and con. Decide for yourself who makes the most sense. Consider the source.
Are things being done differently in public school classrooms today? You betcha. In a world changing as fast as ours, sticking with tradition is a terrible strategy for success in school.