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Another View -- Diane Sekula: Why this teacher opposes Common Core

May 12. 2015 10:49PM

A recently published article stated that Common Core was a flashpoint for conservatives. I disagree with this statement. This is not a partisan issue.

I come from a staunch Democrat family. By most people’s standards, I would be considered liberal. I am also, however, very much against Common Core. Public dissatisfaction with Common Core is not a partisan issue. It is a matter of importance for anyone interested in doing what’s best for the children of New Hampshire.

Recently both the New Hampshire House and Senate passed House Bill 101, a bill prohibiting the state from forcing school districts to implement Common Core standards. It is shameful that Gov. Maggie Hassan did not listen to the voices of New Hampshire citizens who spoke loudly and clearly in support of this bill. Instead, she vetoed it.

This is what I predicted would happen. Gov. Hassan is a strong supporter of Common Core. In fact, the governor is the vice chair of the National Governors Association’s Education and Workforce Committee, a nonprofit, special interest group that controls the Common Core copyright.

Gov. Hassan is quoted as saying, “As this bill has no practical impact, its purpose appears to be that of sending a message and it’s the wrong message.”

As a teacher who both taught in two places where competency based education and teaching to the test were king; the former Soviet Union with the Peace Corps (Moldova, ’99-01), and Texas, and as someone who could not wait to return to New England with the hopes of avoiding this type of “education,” I beg to differ with the governor’s opinion.

I am furthermore very disappointed, discouraged and angered. As a parent and teacher, I see the negative impact of Common Core on a daily basis. New Hampshire should be offering its public school children a proven curriculum, not Common Core.

During my time teaching with the Peace Corps, Moldova was at a point of transitioning from a Communist society to a democratic society. I was instructed to help teachers incorporate opportunities for individual thinking and creativity into their lessons, as this was not done under Soviet rule.

Under Soviet rule, everyone was taught the same thing, testing was everything and you were labeled because of it. Teachers and students were still largely operating through this system while I was there. I would hear comments from teachers such as, “Don’t bother with him, he can’t do it.” There was no discussion of individual learning differences, the impact of hunger, other outside influences or whether the standards, lessons or materials were working. Is this not what we have now with Common Core?

The day last fall when I heard that administrators went around to math teachers’ classrooms at my school and took away their old texts, manipulatives and other materials, leaving them only with the new, Common Core-aligned math materials, my blood froze. What happened to differentiation, professional experience and judgment, and inspiring students with creative and fun lessons?

What about teaching moments? What if the students had their own questions they wanted to investigate and solve?

At that time, I was not yet completely against Common Core; I was keeping an open mind. That day, coupled with too many other similar and unfortunate events, has formed my opinion.

I have yet to figure out how, with its associated one-size-fits-all standards, scripted lessons, mandated tests, mandated standards that are copyrighted and can only be minimally changed, and silencing teachers who question this, Common Core is good for New Hampshire children.

However, I’m sure that, although Gov. Hassan has no teaching experience, Common Core and its associated testing have been shrouded in secrecy and require data collection, the likes of which have never before been seen in America, standardized testing companies and executives are making billions off of this transformation.

The Derryfield School refers to Common Core as inferior, and Philips Exeter will never use Common Core. But the governor believes everything is just fine and we should continue the path we are on. Clearly, the governor knows better than I.

Diane Sekula of Londonderry is a teacher in Hooksett.

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