Teacher Writes Legislator after Retiring Due to Common Core

“There is much more involved here, than just a list of standardsif all the facts were known, it would be more than obvious that the legislature would make the move to abandon Common Core.”

- Recently retired Utah Teacher Margaret Wilkin

Margaret Wilkin has given permission to post her letter to the Utah legislature.  She retired last year from Canyons District.

 

WilkinMay 4, 2013

Senator Aaron Osmond

South Jordan, Utah 84095

 

Dear Aaron,

 

… On March 21, 2013, I was asked to return to the elementary school from which I retired last June, to give a presentation at their Literacy Night.  Some of the parents and students I taught in the past came down to the room where I was to say hello. In the course of the conversation, a mother of one of the smartest and most conscientious students I have ever had, said that her daughter was struggling in math.

I was surprised, but told her mother that teachers are required to teach to a rigid schedule and must move on to the next unit of study, even if the students don’t understand it.

Sticking to the schedule is more important than spending the time making sure everyone understands.

I knew as a teacher what I didn’t like about Common Core, as well as what had taken place leading up to it, but I didn’t have any concrete facts; therefore, I couldn’t give the parents any verifiable information other than my own story. I have spent the last five weeks researching and learning about Common Core. There are so many facets to Common Core, and I still don’t know everything, but I know much more than I did five weeks ago and enough to know that even without my own experience, I could not support it.

This morning I saw the e-mail from Diana Suddreth, the STEM Coordinator at the USOE, asking the Curriculum Director in each school district in Utah to solicit “success stories” from teachers using Common Core standards. She has further stated in her e-mail that she has seen marvelous and exciting things happening in classrooms since the implementation of Common Core. She stated that these “success stories” are needed to counteract the “vicious attacks” by those opposed to Common Core.

Aaron, are you aware that you and Senator Weiler are named by Diana Suddreth as the only two legislators to contact with the Common Core “success stories”? Am I to understand that you and Senator Weiler are therefore supportive of the Common Core Standards for the State of Utah?  If you are, I find this confusing since you have spoken so often of the important principle of local and State control of education. Common Core takes away local and State control, and puts the control into the hands of the Federal Government.

My response to Diana Suddreth is:

1. Utah has always had standards which teachers were required to follow.  2. It is not a matter of “voila” Common Core is here and at long last, wonderful things are happening in classrooms!  Exciting and wonderful things happen in classrooms because of the teacher’s own hard work and creativity along with the freedom to decide how to best teach the standards that make for success in the classroom, NOT because a list of Federally mandated Common Core standards.  3. Tax payers asking legitimate questions of elected officials and those employed at the USOE, and having the expectation of them to have studied the issues more carefully than the people asking the questions “is not too much to ask”.  Asking questions is not a “vicious attack”.  This is the future of our children’s education at stake as well as millions of taxpayer dollars.

Here is my unsolicited “success” story about Common Core:

Please note that I am speaking only to what is happening in the Canyons School District and at the elementary level. And I am speaking out because I am retired. Those teachers in the school system are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out against Common Core and against the policies of the District.

The teachers have been given a rigid schedule which MUST be followed. In the morning, there is to be three hours of reading and language arts followed in the afternoon by two hours of math. P.E. and computer time has been shortened from 45 minutes to 30 minutes once a week.  That leaves 15 minutes of time each day for one of the following: music, art, science and social studies.

The teachers are monitored regularly by the principal, reading specialist and district personnel to make sure they are following the schedule.

Last year, when I was still teaching, the math portion of Common Core was put into place with the District’s purchase of the Pearson-Scott Foresman math series. As of last year, the “curriculum map” or math schedule did not match the organization of the book.  So every night, I had to hunt, using many sources, for what I was to teach the next day in order to follow the curriculum map. This is still the case as of this year.

We were to teach certain concepts during specified blocks of time and sometimes these concepts had no relationship to each other. After the specified blocks of time are completed, the students are tested in the computer lab, mainly so that the district can make sure the teachers are following the schedule. Even if the students do not understand the concepts being taught, the teacher must move on to the next block in order to follow the mandated schedule.

This removes the teacher’s ability to teach according to the needs of her/his particular class. One of the basic tenants of teaching is: monitor and then adjust to the needs of your students. The schedule as required by the District makes this very difficult to do.

We skim over the surface of many concepts. If you have seen any of the ridiculous examples of teaching two-digit multiplication and addition that people have posted on Facebook, yes, I have taught this because it is on the test.

I was in the classroom through the time leading up to the implementation of Common Core, as math was being “dumbed down” and during the time when we were told not to teach multiplication facts, two and three digit multiplication and long division to fourth graders. How could any respectable teacher not teach this?  This is not the case at the present time (times tables and long division and two and three digit multiplication are again being taught); however, the time allotted to teach these concepts is not long enough for many kids to grasp the idea.

My ability to be an effective math teacher was GREATLY diminished by having to follow the Common Core standards.

For this current school year, Canyons District purchased the Pearson reading series, “Reading Street” to match up with Common Core. (A perfectly good reading series which was not worn out was discarded. Why couldn’t this discarded series just have been supplemented with additional materials instead of wasting taxpayer money on new books?)

Reading and language arts, as in math, requires strict adherence to the schedule with regular monitoring by the principal, reading specialist and district personnel.

The students have 8 math and 6 reading computerized tests as well as three oral reading tests administered by the district. The upper grades have an additional test called MAZE. This does not count the end of the year testing in the computer lab. After the results are back the teacher is called into the principal’s office, along with the reading specialist, to account for the scores.

These tests are in addition to the regular weekly spelling, reading and math tests from the book publisher and teacher for the report card grades.

Speaking of report cards, we were told last year that the District was going to have workshops for parents so that they could understand the new report card which was going to be aligned with the Common Core standards. Wouldn’t the necessity of needing a workshop to teach parents how to interpret an elementary school report card, tell the District that this was a bad idea?

The lower performing students have just plain given up with this constant testing and will not even try any more. Teachers report that some of their students’ scores are actually getting worse. And again, teachers are called into the principal’s office to be grilled about what the teacher is going to do to bring up the scores, so that EVERY student is meeting the required benchmarks, when they are already doing everything they can to teach the material. Apparently, a child’s developmental readiness or ability is not taken in to consideration.

Is the child’s or teacher’s value only a test score?

The pressure on the teachers from the administration is INTENSE and many teachers say all they can do is teach to the test.

A second grade teacher recounted that she didn’t even dare have her class color a shamrock on St. Patrick’s Day because of the constant micromanaging by the administration and coloring a shamrock is not on the schedule.

Many teachers are saying they just can’t do this anymore. The joy and creativity of teaching in elementary school has been taken away by Common Core and the excessive testing. Kids and teachers both are burning out. Is this really what we want for our children?

Because of Common Core our freedom is being lost even down to the lowest level: the classroom.

There are MANY reasons to oppose Common Core. Here are just a few:

1. Data and assessment driven.  2. Adopted by the State School Board by accepting stimulus money and agreeing to the Common core standards before they had even been written.  3. Family rights to privacy, as spelled out in FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), have been essentially amended making computer testing a major tool in gathering information about students that should remain private. This is known as Data Mining.  4. Adopting these standards takes decision making out of State and local school boards and districts, but, even more importantly, out of the hands of teachers and parents. 5. The State Legislature was bypassed by not being included in the decision of whether or not to adopt Common Core.

There are so many layers to Common Core. There is much more involved here, than just a list of standards. My experience is just one part, but an important part. Frankly, it seems to me that if all the facts were known, it would be more than obvious that the legislature would make the move to abandon Common Core.

I am not against Common Core because I have been around for SO long that I don’t want change, but because I can see the harm it is doing to my profession and to students. The freedom of the parents, teachers, school districts and states to choose what is best for them has been taken away and will be controlled by the Federal government.

May I recommend to you a video presentation explaining Common Core that has been posted on You Tube. It is one of the best presentations I have seen. If you type in Google “You Tube Subversive Threat to Education”, you should be able to find it. It is a current talk given to a group in Tennessee.

Thank you again for all the hours of service you give to our community and State.

Sincerely,

Margaret Wilkin

23 Responses to Teacher Writes Legislator after Retiring Due to Common Core

  • Britni says:

    Margaret,

    Thank you for doing this. I hope Mr. Osmond listens. You’ve given me a boost of hope today.

    Britni

  • Born on the Fourth of July says:

    Thanks Margaret. It is good to hear a teacher’s point of view…one who has vetted this horrible boondoggle of a standard. Thanks for giving a voice to the majority of parents and teachers feelings about this Federal mess which was stealthily brought into our state, in the night, by the USOE and our Governor. We want the freedom and local control of our children’s education BACK in the hands of parents and educators and out of the hands of the Federal Government. You have done us a great service with your letter. Thanks again for standing up, being counted and doing the right thing! Cheers to you!

  • Jenny Baker says:

    I find this letter very interesting. I have 5 school aged children. The youngest is currently in fourth grade. I have noticed the change from my oldest child to present. My older children felt empowered and were very successful in school. They loved each teacher and could tell the teachers and administrators cared about them. I was able to spend a lot of time as a volunteer and it was wonderful to see other parents in the community pulling together to help the school provide a great educational experience for the students.

    As the years progressed, I found my help was not needed or desired because of time restraints. My youngest child has a great deal of homework and is asked to get online to visit educational sites at home. She feels frustrated because as soon as she starts to become familiar with a subject, the class has to move onto a totally different subject. The overall feeling in her class is, “hurry, hurry, opened your mind and learn without sharing your own thoughts because we have no time for that!”

    As I meet with the teachers, they express frantic concern that I spend more time teaching my children at home. One teacher even suggested that I ask the doctor to diagnose her with a learning disability so that she won’t have to be held to higher testing standards. The teacher immediately appologized and admitted that she has to report for every low test score and that she is not allowed to teach the students the way she knows they would learn.

    I loved the wonderful feeling of creativity in learning at our elementary schools. It was absolutely beautiul to see minds be inspired. I do not observe that same feeling now. The children come home with stress and no longer wish to share what they learned at school.

    My fear is that younger moms will not understand the drastic changes that have taken place and they will blame themselves and their children for their lack of education. They need to learn that it is the system that has failed. Children need to learn like children, not like robots! Teachers need to teach with care and understanding, not like robots. Administrators need to rejoice in the human brain and trust the great minds of their teachers instead of trusting an unproven, mechanical system.

    • Margaret Wilkin says:

      You are so correct with your observation of what is going on. The hurry, hurry part is so true. At times I felt like my students were “objects” that I had to cram information into instead of children who at times really needed someone to listen to them. I always cared, but couldn’t always take the time to listen.

    • Sarah McGee says:

      Your comment about parents not knowing that they are not the reason for their child’s lack of education is dead on. Sadly new teachers won’t know that either. They don’t know anything but teaching to the test and using scripted programs. Those of us who remember the joy of teaching and learning will soon disappear.

  • Susan Wilcox says:

    Margaret – I MUST meet you, as I too quit early and retired because of Common Core and the overpowering FEELING that I was now a PION in education instead of a respected teacher. I’m heading for L.A. to visit my daughter for Mother’s Day, and did not go to Dallas for the Glenn Beck show, because I need to STUDY more. I am serving a mission 2 days now in the West Jordan LDS Employment Center. Please CONTACT me – this is beautifully done, and I feel I need to HELP our struggling and downcast teachers to speak out. They are all afraid of losing their jobs!!

    I don’t have that problem anymore, and intend to do whatever I can to help. I will catch up on my saved e-mails from the Webmaster on Common Core, Oak Norton. I am PETRIFIED that Utah has allowed this to happen and just want to say DITTO to your letter. I need to spend more time on this but I still teach music in my home and need the pay to see us through retirement. I am not old enough to collect my Social Security and we are trying to work out the differences until then, and just hope the system does not collapse on us by the time I get there!

    Our COUNTRY is in trouble – not just our schools. I can’t spend the last few years of my life sitting on the couch watching TV…I would be very depressed if I were not actively engaged in the good cause of helping Utah children. I could not longer DO THAT within the public school system. My teaching materials are all going to DI soon – so be on the look out, home schoolers, for a lot of good materials for free….

    Susan Wilcox

    • I hope all the teachers who leave the system will consider hanging on to their materials and teaching a few children in their neighborhood whose mothers can’t homeschool. It takes much less time in a small group in a home. Or give the materials to the mothers and show them how to use them.

      • deborah pond says:

        Joyce what a wonderful idea. I have seven children, and did not start homeschooling until the youngest two were in 5th and 3rd grade. I really believe that at some point parents will start asking for help. Hang onto your materials, you just never know. There are moms out there that just do not know who to ask.

    • Julie says:

      You should put your materials on Craigslist for free. DI is great, but for you to know you are helping home schoolers something like Craigslist would satisfy your curiosity of whether homeschoolers or administrators found your materials.

  • Dawn Bates says:

    Thanks, Margaret. Great letter. I’m forwarding this to my daughter in Michigan who is just beginning her investigation of Common Core. She attended a High School Orientation tonight and raised her hand to ask what Common Core was. She is aware of the program, but wanted to see what the response would be. The Principal said “it was a higher way of thinking”. Really? Now she’s mad and anxious for as much information on Common Core as she can get and I can certainly help her there!! She said that most of the parents had no idea what Common Core was. That’s what “they” are counting on, isn’t it?

    • Anonymous says:

      Dawn, the original content of the common core can be found here:

      http://www.corestandards.org/

      While excerpts from the content and anecdotes from meetings help me focus on certain aspects, they also tend to take things out of context. In addition to reading the pro and anti opinions listed on blogs and the call-to-action items, I find it useful for me to go to the original content for an overall context and I follow it up with one-on-one conversations with the principal and teachers at my kids school.

      In the end, I found that the common core is neither as wonderful as the proponents make it out to be nor is it as pernicious as the opponents make it out to be. It is just an attempt at identifying a problem and trying to improve the framework to address it. It also allows states and teachers to build on it as they see fit. They are free to change the method of teaching to adjust to individual learning needs as they have been able to do in the past. They continue to maintain charter schools to allow students to pursue an emphasis on arts, performing arts, sciences or trade school. The open classrooms that some districts offer continue to remain open for more parental involvement in their child’s learning.

      The pressure to perform on tests was there even before CC came along and teachers complained then as they complain now about tests. CC just changes what the kids are tested on going forward. I support the teachers on that. Personally, I believe that there is too much testing going on and both teachers and students can benefit from cutting back on tests. But that should not be the basis for striking down the entire content of CC.

      • Margaret Wilkin says:

        You need to watch the video that I referred to at the end of my letter–You-Tube Subversive Threat to Education.

      • Tricia says:

        Anonymous, you could very well be right when you say, “I found that the common core is neither as wonderful as the proponents make it out to be nor is it as pernicious as the opponents make it out to be.”

        I agree that a healthy dose of skepticism to arguments on both sides is prudent.

        But what if the opponents are right? Are you willing to take that chance and gamble on the future of our children?

        This whole argument reminds me of the controversy surrounding the Investigations Math program back in the late 90s. Proponents said it was a wonderful program while some parents were opposed. I personally saw many red flags. I’m ashamed to say that I ignored them. I trusted that the professional educators knew what was best for my children.

        It was years before I recognized the terrible effects of Investigations Math. But thankfully, those opponents had been fighting all along, and by the time I realized just how bad the program was, it was gone and my younger children didn’t have to suffer through it.

        But if people had waited to fight (like I did) until we saw the results, then even more kids would have been affected.

        Once again, I see red flags raised with common core. This time, I’m not going to ignore them. Now is the time to fight, not once the program has been enacted and we have to wait for the fallout to determine whether it was beneficial or detrimental.

        Let’s at least pause the program until all the concerns that parents have are addressed. Maybe introduce a pilot program.

        Once common core has proven itself, we’ll be happy to sign our kids up, I’m sure.

        Until then, I choose to oppose common core. I would rather err on the side of caution than take the chance of exposing my kids to another bad program with long-term, devastating consequences.

  • Rhonda says:

    “what the teacher is going to do to bring up the scores, so that EVERY student is meeting the required benchmarks, when they are already doing everything they can to teach the material. Apparently, a child’s developmental readiness or ability is not taken in to consideration.”

    Has anyone else noticed that CommonCore’s initials also mean “carbon copy”?

    Our children are unique, individual, with different gifts and talents, and not meant to function identically.

  • Anonymous says:

    Margaret, thank you for your letter to Senator Osmond. It is right on the money!! As a teacher in Canyons School District, I can vouch for what Margaret has said. I believe that everyone who is fighting Common Core needs to know that teachers in Utah are now being put in a very uncomfortable situation by being asked to publicly proclaim their support for Common Core. This has happened twice to me in the last few weeks and it really puts me on edge. I do not want to be blacklisted by my district because I do not support Common Core. I cannot lie and say I support it, when I do not. It is a horrible position to put teachers in. Teachers are scared to speak out. I believe there is pressure coming down from the USOE because they are feeling the heat. They must think that if they get enough teachers to speak positively about CC that the heat will cool. If they have to drum up support by pressuring employees and putting them in compromising situations in their districts and schools then “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

    • Margaret says:

      Anonymous,
      Thank you for verifying what I wrote to Senator Osmond.
      Upon hearing of of the USOE asking for success stories relating to implementation of Common Core, I could not stand silent one moment longer. I, like you, know the undeniable truth of what Common Core is really doing to our schools, teachers, students and their families.

      • Steph Helsley says:

        Is it just me?, or do others see socialism coming to America?? Why are we still standing for it? Where is the American Spirit that we last saw on 9-11? Isn’t it time for impeachment and a complete review of the changes Obama made while in office? Thank all of you who wrote and spoke out against the common core curriculum.

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