Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Education

Good questions in Common Core debate overshadowed by crazy train

To the parents questioning the impact that Common Core State Standards will have in our public schools, I say:

Demand answers!

To the parents who worry about cookie-cutter education and an over-reliance on standardized testing, I say:

Demand details!

To the parents concerned about the federal government secretly tracking, manipulating and brainwashing our children, I say:

Demand … wait, what was that?

The Common Core debate pulls into Tampa tonight, and there's a good chance misinformation, paranoia and zealotry will be riding shotgun.

And that would be a shame because this is an argument worth having.

Florida, along with 45 other states, agreed to adopt Common Core a few years ago with the hope of raising standards and creating a national set of expectations for schoolchildren from Key West to Seattle.

Millions of dollars have been spent, lesson plans have been tweaked and students have been prepped in anticipation of these changes.

But now that Common Core is less than a year away from being fully implemented, there is a loud and furious pushback that is threatening the entire concept.

Is that a bad thing?

Not necessarily.

Parents should never be faulted for asking questions about their child's education. And, despite mostly good intentions, we already have a lengthy track record of mistakes and miscalculations within Florida schools. So, yes, skepticism is warranted.

The problem is in the tenor of the debate.

Hard-core supporters of Common Core have a tendency to dismiss legitimate complaints. The stock reply from the Jeb Bush crowd is to suggest you are afraid of standards or accountability, and you'd rather promote ignorant kids than make waves.

On the other hand, critics of Common Core love shouting questions, but rarely listen to the answers. No matter what the facts say, they're still going to blame President Barack Obama and suggest this is some elaborate plot to indoctrinate America's youth.

Meanwhile, children and teachers need real answers.

They need to know if Common Core is going to increase the number of days spent taking standardized tests. They need to know if school funding, teacher evaluations and student promotions will be anchored to an unproven test.

They need to know why we should trust a new standardized test when 20 years of trial-and-error failed to perfect the FCAT. They need to know how much latitude they will have in curriculum, or if Common Core will overwhelm lesson plans.

They need a detailed explanation of how Common Core is better than the Sunshine State Standards we've spent decades refining, and what business interests stand to profit most from this change.

Mostly, they need reasoned debate instead of hysteria.

The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition offers parents a memo of "talking points'' to argue during this evening's hearing at Hillsborough Community College.

And while the memo seems to agree that Common Core shares ominous traits with history's "failed regimes,'' it cautions that using terms such as "Nazism,'' "communism,'' "United Nations'' and "Agenda 21'' might be counterproductive.

In other words, please leave crazy in the car.

Your children will thank you.

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