I wrote this as an assignment for my graduate class. Ignore the parts were I claim to be the superintendent. That was part of the assignment. I’m sure this isn’t what they expect when they ask you to write to your senator about an issue in education.
Dear Mr. Corman,
I am writing to you today to request that you introduce a Common Core withdrawal bill in the Pennsylvania Senate. As I will explain, the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards that were tightly adapted from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) should be withdrawn because they heighten the focus of schools on Math and Reading while marginalizing other subjects, they were developed without input from teachers, and they degrade what local control remains in education.
As the superintendent of the Greenwood School District, I believe that the emphasis on Math and Reading minimizes the importance of other subjects that are not tested. I believe that the components of education that are valuable cannot all be tested. Our school district has developed goals that include achievement in Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, World Languages, Arts and Humanities, and seven other categories in addition to Math and Reading. We will struggle to meet those goals with an increased emphasis on only two subjects.
From sources that I have read, the writers of the CCSS, while maintaining that they communicated with the states, actually had minimal engagement with the public or classroom teachers. The developers of the CCSS, Achieve, Inc. and the National Governors Association (NGA) were heavily funded by the private sector including the Gates Foundation. As far as I know, the experts on what students are developmentally capable of achieving at each grade level are the people who do it every day. Creating a guidebook for their work without knowing what the know may lead some to suggest that the CCSS were developed to assure that public school falter.
Finally, in 2006 and 2007, I led a group of teachers, parents, and community leaders in developing the following mission statement for the District:
The mission of the Greenwood School District is to provide enriching, educational experiences for each individual student. We believe the foundation of these experiences is a partnership among the family, school and community. The learning environment will develop the skills necessary to produce responsible citizens in a rapidly changing, diverse world.
I would highlight for you the second sentence: We believe the foundation of these experiences is a partnership among the family, school and community. The CCSS continue a trend that began with the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that established No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and began a steady erosion of local control. Our community and our district value local control as evidenced by our mission statement. Creating a national standard for developing curriculum quite possibly will lead to a nationalized curriculum and from there eventually to a national standardized test. At that point the state will have lost control of educating their citizens and what little local control remains will dwindle to nothing.
Interestingly, many reformers of education point to the tremendous gains made by Finland on the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The gains made by Finland are in part contributed to moving away from a nationally centered curriculum to a locally controlled curriculum. While they do have national standards in Finland, they are especially perfunctory.
In closing, I appreciate the time that you take to examine the issues that I have brought forth in this missive. Our children are dependent on people like you to do what is right to ensure them a bright future. Hopefully this future will include locally controlled schools utilizing teacher designed assessments to drive a well rounded curriculum.
Jeffrey A. Kuhns
Superintendent of Schools
Greenwood School District