Cape Gazette

Concerns raised over Common Core article

By Sharon Hoover | Jun 06, 2013

I appreciate reading stories about the local education system; however, numerous things in the article “Common Core under fire” (May 31) struck me as misinformed.

The Common Core Standards is not a federal initiative.

Corporate interests and “policy makers” - whomever they might be - did not drive the standards. Bill Gates and the U.S. government got into the game late - after 47 states had adopted the standards!

The National Governors Association for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers take credit for being the authors of the Common Core Standards.

The standards are not curriculum. Curriculum is under state or local control, depending on the state.

Also, not mentioned in the article, but of some concern to many, is what shall happen to students who have difficulty in achieving the standards. These children should continue to receive specialized help made available by the local school.

Many children move from school to school or state to state. The new school may have a different book, but the standards ought to be the same.

Textbook companies have never been driven by standards. They have been driven by profits from very large states that mandate books to be used in each school in the state. Conservative political groups often exert undue influence at the local and state level in textbook adoption. They can do this because they step up to do it. Other citizens need to step up and be heard also.

The development of Common Core Standards in mathematics began about 20 years ago with elementary school teachers and mathematicians working together to improve the teaching of mathematics to children and to prospective teachers.

They have videotaped innumerable hours of classroom teaching. They have analyzed teachers’ presentations and students’ responses. They have created categories of arithmetical ideas, ways ideas are presented and ways students respond. The researchers and teachers then try out their ideas, continuing to videotape, continuing to have workshops across the United States, mostly in the summer. The researchers and participants have depended upon money from wherever they can find it - locally, small grants and their own pockets.

Principals and local school officials became interested in the ways in which standards were being developed and spoke to governors. Governors took a decided interest in developing standards. Governors need action and success.

If we expect the United States to continue to be on the cutting edge of technology, of manufacturing, of patents and new ideas, we need to educate our children in the mathematics of today. New cars, washing machines, iPhones and so on, are not built using the mathematics of the horse and buggy and scrub board age.

Do children need to memorize their tables? Of course! But they need to learn much more, and most children can do so.

I want the best ideas available for schools for my grandchildren and for all the children in the United States. It’s time we put faith into the researchers and teachers who have given their lives to studying teaching, mathematics and children’s learning of mathematics.

(Full disclosure: my husband was a mathematics professor. I taught in public schools, adopted mathematics curriculum as a principal, then wrote and edited mathematics textbooks, and our son has worked in research on the teaching of mathematics for students and their teachers for 25 years. His resume is long and impressive.)

Sharon Hoover


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