On September 17, 2014, Mr. Robert Pondiscio of The Fordham Institute said, “Common Core is not controversial” in Washoe County. I think his editor may have left some words out of that sentence. My guess is it originally read – Common Core is not controversial in the office of Washoe County’s, curriculum and instruction specialist Aaron Grossman, during my closed door interview with him. That sounds slightly less fictional.
Once again the Fordham folks are big on promotion and slim on facts. Washoe County has had much controversy. Parents in Washoe don’t care for Common Core State Standards anymore than parents anywhere else across the state or across the nation. Was Mr. Pondiscio limited on space? Was he not allowed to speak with actual classroom teachers, assuming he could find any willing to put their livelihood on the line? As with most pushers of Common Core State Standards Mr. Grossman has not been in the classroom, as a teacher, for years. Not only is he the curriculum and instruction specialist but he has been on special assignment specifically to promote the Common Core State Standards.
I find that hilarious.
Why do standards need promoting? They’re “just standards” right? Educated teachers get it don’t they? According to Webster a standard is “That which is established by authority as a rule for measuring.”
Mr. Pondiscio says, this has been “Far from a top-down initiative…” Is he under the impression that the children of Washoe are asking for Mr. Grossman to run around the district waving the Common Core pompons, singing the praises of David Coleman et al.
The governor of Nevada, or his staff, send off-the-mark meandering emails in response to sincere correspondence from parents asking the governor to stop Common Core State Standards (which were so stealthy renamed, Nevada Academic Content Standards in 2010) in Nevada because they see the harm it is doing their children while Mr. Grossman is working on tax payer dollars to create and promote his Core Task Project. Not only is that a top-down initiative – it is a top-down initiative at both an emotional and financial cost to the people of Nevada.
Speaking of the Core Task Project – I would stop bragging about it for purposes of Common Core promotion if I were Mr. Pondiscio, for a couple of reasons. Not only is Mr. Grossman the golden boy for the state leaders who are still supporting the evidence-free Common Core State Standards, but as Fordham has already pointed out the project is only working with a third of the Washoe schools. Assuming a somewhat equitable distribution in the district’s 63,000 student enrollment that’s about 21,000 students more or less – not much to brag about considering this project is three years old, has the state’s blessing, and tax payer money fueling its efforts.
Fordham is grasping at straws by holding up Washoe as the shiny example for the nation to look to as the Common Core State Standards implementation leader. Nevada as a whole is lagging behind the nation with regard to implementing the Common Core State Standards. Mr. Grossman, may be a big dog in Washoe, but not so much in Clark County, where we are home to 311,000 of the state’s students in one district. Although he was flown in (I believe at tax payer expense) to give his Power Point presentation to the Interim Legislative Committee on Education to counter Jane Robbins’, Fellow with American Principles Project, eloquent presentation, we were not moved.
Mr. Grossman may have the good fortune of being “one of the boys,” however, the good teachers – who still believe in the art and science of teaching – want nothing to do with Common Core State Standards. I reach out to teachers almost daily and the responses I receive are appalling. Teachers still in the classroom are afraid to speak out publicly. Why is that? Those that will speak will only do so anonymously and what they have to say about Common Core State Standards is not positive. The saddest of all are the teachers who tell me they “are just counting (their) days until they can get out,” or “retire.” Common Core is their breaking point. These aren’t the lemons – these are the award winning quality, caring teachers we are losing to a bureaucratic take over of our classrooms. The lemons, of course, are staying. Bad standards, bad curriculum, bad teachers, its all a much better fit.
As far as teacher-created curriculum goes – sure we have teachers still writing their own curriculum and putting together their own lessons plans in Clark County as well, which is a good thing. Some are doing so in defiance while others are doing so because they don’t have “Common Core aligned” material yet, which is a good thing. Nevada does not have the estimated 150 million dollars to pay for Common Core State Standards and its mandated testing, which is a good thing.
But, by all means, Mr. Pondiscio, please interview Mr. Grossman again after our first round of national assessments and see how well the “teacher-led” and “grassroots” curriculum faired against a test they did not create. Oh, don’t worry about the grades, we’ve all been sufficiently warned that we can expect a big drop in our student’s percentages due to the immense rigor built into the Common Core. I understand that, however, my money is on the curriculum lining up with the tests faster than Marines lining up under orders from their Drill Sergeant because parents will only buy the “rigor” argument for so long and teachers will only be held accountable for the state’s doing for so long before we all stop this ridiculous dance around the elephant in the living room.
Washoe was a weak choice Mr. Pondiscio. If one guy working at the behest of the state on tax payer money was the best you could come up with – well, then Common Core State Standards really has no stronghold on the nation after all.