Common Core Not Controversial in Washoe County? So Says – One Guy?

renoOn 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.

13 thoughts on “Common Core Not Controversial in Washoe County? So Says – One Guy?

  1. Excellent rebuttal Christina! I read a great quote yesterday
    regarding how parents can safely expose their children to the world’s
    ways. He says that some parents try to “quarantine” their children from
    the world while others allow “overexposure”. He says that exposing
    children to the arguments (as opposed to opinions) is vital in the
    teaching method. However, many teachers and/or professors no longer
    seek to educate but rather indoctrinate. The solution? Teach your
    children, no matter what age, to ask this important question, “What
    would be the best argument I could go read against what you’ve just told
    me?” Jay Richards,…. You, Christina, have offered just such a source to rebut Mr. Pondiscio!

    Mr. Richards says professors never know the answer to that question as
    Mr. Pondiscio has exhibited in his less than scholarly article.

  2. I tried to post to that blog again, but he does not seem to want to post my last statement: Here was the comment I made to the author, when he questioned the homework: it was deleted last night and I rewrote the following: Wow, that is odd, my comment from last night is not here. I found it odd and even a bit suspicious myself. I know that my friends’ kids here in LV have the strangest math homework that they take hours to struggle through. Not to get the answer right, but, to make sure it will look like the other kids. He is a super bright kid. This was the first I saw of a misplaced topic.

    So, the CC is copyrighted standards. And the home work from other posts online and worksheets have little hurricane logos and CC or other copyrights marks. These are teaching tools.

    If there are standards, by definition they must be measured or compared to what a child is learning or a teacher is teaching. How does one measure a pupil? Take an assessment, or test. So, there must be specific information within the Standard, or perhaps it is a method. Then the teacher must teach a method or content that will be able to be able to be measured against the Standard.

    Most states are spending money on new curriculum and tests and databases. We do not have this for our budget here in NV.

    Remember when you were in elementary school? You were tested every year, maybe at 3rd and 5th grade, to just get a pulse on the school and grade and any improvement. Then in middle or Jr high it was once or twice a year. And in high School it was either 4 times or 2 times depending on the school and in Junior year, those going on took a ACET or similar test and an SAT or other test for entrance into college.

    So a quick generic search for Copyright standards and tests leads to:


    Where was the public open forums for teachers, parents and school boards to engage in discussion? To address any data or facts or outcomes of these Standards to be implemented in the system?

    It is our tax money, we pay it, now we are facing another 2% margin tax for NV, supposedly to build schools and higher teachers, but now I am not sure.

    This is a big machine with quite a few large cogs to get moving and seemingly very costly for a state in need of just 630 teachers in Clark County, our elementary kids going to school in temp trailers and lacking basic school supplies like paper, bath tissue, pencils and crayons?? Every parent with a kid in K – 5 was given a very lengthy and costly list (some were about $50-90 when all done)

    I don’t mind, as a parent, in addition to paying our taxes, supplying the schools and teachers with supplies… I do if we are wasting money on a great Experiment that will effect my child’s entire education, love of learning and joy of finding stuff out.

    My child is an individual, who learns differently at varied levels and grasping concepts as they come to fruition in their brains. Each kid is unique, and even our failing NV system addressed that the best it could. Now we are reverse engineering weak college ready standards to each grade in age inappropriate ways, disregarding all developmentally appropriate methods. These are kids, not hamburgers or boxes. Kids.

  3. The Core Task Project and the CCSS work in Washoe County is
    certainly not the work of one person. How about shifting the conversation
    from personal attacks to a focus on what is possible with CCSS teaching and learning?

    Here is a snapshot from the hundreds of teachers who have
    been involved with the work:

    From one Core Task teacher: “Through this entire process I
    have grown. Because of this my students have grown…. These students are much more confident and able to share with the class. Big boost to their morale! This was especially effective since all of them were well below grade level. Results were surprisingly positive and measurable.”

    From another Core Task teacher: “I have had the best time
    with CTiP! I have met so many wonderful people with whom I was able to have deep conversations with and learn from. I challenged my kiddos to so many complex texts that in return, I challenged myself and my own teaching. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to complex texts and how to teach them to young learners. I am excited to continue to implement close reads in my classroom to help students build comprehension and oral language to better
    prepare them for their future!”

    And from another… “As this project comes to a close, I am
    blown away with what I have learned and what my students have learned. As student learning shifts with CCSS, so has my teaching.”

    If we could keep the focus on teaching and learning, it might generate a more productive solution for all. I, Aaron Grossman and a number of teachers in Washoe’s Curriculum & Instruction, have worked tirelessly to bring our colleagues innovative ideas and to create the space so they might safely explore the potential of teaching and learning matched to the CCSS. Collaboration has been essential!

    1. Torrey,
      Thank you for writing. I had to go back to check on the purported “personal attacks” as that was not my intent or focus. Although I was not introduced to him I did see Mr. Grossman and he strikes me as a nice person who believes in what he is doing. My referring to him as the “golden boy” was not nice and I do apologize for that. In hindsight I could have restated my point with a more polite or benign reference. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. My frustration is with CCSS continually being forced on the nation without the nation’s approval. There are many people, myself included, who do not want this for our children but that does not seem to be of concern to anyone. The pushers continue to marginalize us and label (hence I don’t want to do the same to Mr. Grossman) us or blame the Tea Party.

  4. Is this blog really called “Truth in American Education”? I would urge some fact checking about not only Mr. Grossman but also about the legislative process and record pf the great state of Nevada. Aaron Grossman is a teacher on special assignment, tasked with helping other teachers improve their classroom practice through skillful use of curricular knowledge.

    As a teacher leader in Washoe County, I can say with out doubt, the state had no idea who Mr. Grossman was until the incredible work that he, Torrey Palmer and countless other curriculum leaders undertook with the teachers in Washoe County reached a positive critical mass. This work began as a small grassroots experiment, meant to tease out the potential benefits and pitfalls of the CCSS. What we found (I was one of the initial 15 teachers) is that across the board, all learners were engaged, eager and ready for the challenge. We (the teachers) were inspired by our students and quickly spread the word to anyone who would listen. The demand for the unique, inquiry focused (not policy or agenda focused)
    project was so high that with in 18 months hundreds of teachers had chosen (not been forced) to particiapte.

    Our most intense lesson over the last three years has been that patience and persistence will be critical to doing this work well. Focusing on students, teachers, content and meaningful interactions with high quality text and with high quality mathematical reasoning will maximize engagement and outcomes critical to improving students capacity as humans (not on tests)… this is not about testing; this is about thinking. It shocks me that our strongest critics in Washoe County have failed to investigate what the CCSS looks like in our classrooms with a guide from inside. It is appallingly irresponsible and blatantly political. Our kids deserve more. They deserve teachers who are empowered to develop their full potential and the CCSS gets us a lot closer to that than the old skill base standards could ever dream.

    Teaching is a licensed and skilled profession, and excellent teaching is very complex and difficult to understand from the outside. I’d invite any of you who have concerns to come to see this work in action (to listen in while teachers plan and observe while they teach). Christine, if you come observe, ask questions and engage in dialogue with teachers I am certain they can help clarify all of the misconceptions you seem have about the relationship between standards, state law, and testing. They can also clarify the legislative process of standards adoption in Nevada, show you the legislative record of public hearings and the share some good stories about mistakes we almost made in implementation here in Washoe. Thank goodness for the folks at C and I who recognized that the CCSS was an opportunity to do better for our students and families.

    1. “I urge some fact checking about not only Mr. Grossman but also about the legislative process…” Common Core State Standards aka Nevada Academic Content Standards was not brought into the state of Nevada through the legislative process.
      Thank you for writing.

      1. Hi Christina, I know there has been a lot of misinformation circulating about how the CCSS came to Nevada. In his presentation to the Legislative Committee on Education in April of last year, State Superintendent Dale Erquiaga presented the complete implementation history from conception, to adoption to implementation in the power point you can access at the address below:

        I can assure you, as does Superintendent Erquiaga, that the standards were legally adopted, properly noticed public hearings were held (those are in the record as well) and the normal procedure for standards adoption was followed, just as it was in 2000, and 2006. It is not part of NRS that the public votes on academic standards. And to my knowledge this is the first time that this has been problematized by the public. I’m not sure why these standards bother people so much. They are more rigorous which is great for kids but still leave complete control of text, task, lesson design and curriculum at the local level of decision making. Undoubtedly, I disagree with what some colleagues across the nation have shared, assigned or done in the name of the CCSS, but individuals through out history have mistakenly invoked the name of God, the Beatles, Jodie Foster etc… to justify their interesting choices. Questions about the quality or purpose of an academic task should always be directed to the teacher. If he or she cannot explain his/her thinking that problem is with the teacher, not the standards.

        Again, I would love to chat with you more about this issue. I am a passionate advocate for the transformational power of education and you seem to deeply care about this issue as well… As an educator, I promise you, we all know what important partners parents are. I’d love to share with you the view from Washoe County, which may be very different from Clark. Regards, Linnea

        1. Good evening Linnea:

          I appreciate your reaching out and yes there is a lot of misinformation. I cannot speak to the legalities of how standards are approved or adopted by a sovereign state (frankly, until CCSS it never would have occurred to me to care) I just know from speaking with several legislators that our lawmakers were bypassed. Because this is leading to a national curriculum ( if our lawmakers don’t step up they will stand impotent at the next federal intrusion into our state matters.

          Let me address Dale’s presentation first as I was in attendance at most of the Interim Legislative Committee on Education meetings this year. If you look closely at page 2 just after the title page of his power point you’ll see it reads, “NDE and Governor Gibbons join this effort,” slotted under 2009. It looks uncomfortable there. I cannot say with certainty but I do believe it was added after the fact that the (pre-finalized) standards were signed onto by Dr. Rheault on 20 May 2009 with the NGA and CCSSO was exposed. (You may pull it here hyperlinked into the article: ( Up until that meeting the fallacy that the standards were “state-led” was still being touted.

          Further, in the same article you see another hyperlink that will take you to the meeting minutes for the November 2009 meeting where Rheault states if Nevada wants to “apply” for RttT funding the “standards are not voluntary.”

          There is nothing “state-led” about the standards. Governor Gibbons Blue Ribbon task force of March 2010 was window dressing. In fact, everything after May of 2009 has been window dressing. So its not really a factor how many meetings were properly noticed. It was a farce carried out on the unsuspecting parents/taxpayers of Nevada.

          However, let me share with you some of my comments to Senator Aaron Ford as he, like you, brought up the same issue. (By the way – in Clark County if 35 people are in attendance at a state board meeting – you can bet 32 of them are CCSD employees as 9:00AM is a difficult for working parents to attend.) Let’s say hundreds of parents came to all of these well noticed public meetings and we signed on to CCSS and thought it sounded like the best standards since Moses carried down the first 10. So what? Here we are 3 -4 years in and we are speaking up now. We are saying this is not good. This is not what we want for our children. The state’s answer is to just ignore us and continue to throw good money after bad? That is Representative Anderson’s answer. He doesn’t want to stop now. He’s fine with stressed out kids, angry parents, and wasted money.

          I think I have my fingers on the pulse of Nevada’s fiscal concerns.
          We are a great nation, in my humble opinion because of our uniqueness. We are 50 sovereign states for a reason. Not 50 identical states. If we give up our sovereignty we give up our ability to learn and to share with one another. If one state makes a monumental mistake the other 49 say, “Hey, let’s not do that.” What genius decided to tank all 50 states at one time? Actually, if control is your end game then it was a genius move.
          We lead in Nobel prize recipients for a reason and its not because we stripped our kids of their individuality.
          I think what you have in Washoe is, for the time being, quite unique, which is why I was so frustrated with Fordham for holding you all up as a national example. It is disingenuous when they know for a fact that the bulk of the nation is clawing to get out. Linnea, I have teachers who can’t look me in the eye because they are ashamed they are not speaking up. They think I’m so brave. I’m not brave. I’m mad. They are not speaking up because they are afraid. Don’t you ever wonder why Washoe is just skipping down the yellow brick road of CCSS and incumbent candidates are losing their seats because they support it?
          I hope this freedom, for lack of a better word, you all are enjoying up there stays in place for you, I really do. Because if you blessed few ever have to begin experiencing what the majority of our teachers here are experiencing you just might shed a few tears of frustration as well.
          I have to feed my children and you are probably bored with my rambling but in a nutshell parents want better for their children. We are experiencing a one size fits all here. Our teachers have lost control of their curriculum and autonomy. Another teacher today had a minor meltdown in class. A student asked, “Why are we reading (ABC), instead of (XYZ)?” The teacher threw his arms up helplessly in the air and replied, “Because I don’t get to pick what my kids read anymore.”

  5. The Core Task Project, serving teachers in Washoe County for over 3 years now, is nowhere close to the work of any one person! The CTP involves hundreds of teachers, learning, investigating and working to improve their practice to serve the needs of the students sitting in front of them. Though there are mandates and initiatives which consume teachers’ time and detract from instruction, the CTP has given teachers the time and support they have been asking for – hence the success of the model. Hopefully the author of this basically evidence-free piece of journalism will take Ms. Wolters up on her invitation to come and visit Washoe County and to work with the teachers, the same way Mr. Pondiscio did upon his visit.

    1. Ms. Schmidt:
      Thank you for writing. If your reply is directed at my article – I did not say that the Core Project is the work of one person. My focus was on Fordham choosing Washoe county. You referred to my piece as “basically evidence-free..” If I have misspoken I would like the opportunity to correct my statement or revisit a fact. Please, if you would, let me know where the evidence is missing from my remarks. For the record – Common Core State Standards, aka, Nevada Academic Content Standards are evidence free. When you look through the standards you will notice they are without citation. They are also without the acclaimed benchmarking as well. Dale Erquiaga, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Nevada, was honest when he called them, a “well intentioned effort.” Thank you again.

  6. I am a teacher here in Washoe County and consider myself very fortunate to be in a District that supports our Nevada Academic Content Standards. I, along with many other teachers, have received ongoing professional development in both ELA, through the Core Task Project, and math that supports the NVACS. The results of the standards in my classroom? Students learning about the world they live in through complex literature and informational text; students deeply engaged and making connections across the content areas; students having rich conversations, justifying their thinking, and learning from each other; students writing across the curriculum – using evidence from the text to support their opinions and arguments…I could go on, but really the best way to see NVACS in action is to visit a classroom that embraces the standards, talk with the students and observe the amazing learning that takes place each day!

  7. I am a WCSD teacher who has had the privilege of participating in many professional development opportunities to support the NVACS. Aaron Grossman, and many other trainers, have done an incredible job supporting teachers in the effective implementation of the standards.

    Good teachers know that the NVACS are what is best for students. They encourage students to read complex text, focus on academic vocabulary, cite evidence to support claims, and learn about the world through content-rich nonfiction. My students feel empowered by the skills and knowledge they have gained as a result of the standards. I can truly say that I am preparing my students to be college and career ready.

    I encourage you to speak to more teachers who are effectively implementing the NVACS in their classrooms. Only then can you gain a clear picture of the effectiveness, benefits, and power of the NVACS.

    1. Ms. Penney – Thank you for writing.
      I have spoken with many teachers who are and who have “effectively” implemented the Common Core State Standards aka Nevada Academic Content Standards. They are doing so because they do not have a choice. Like NCLB this is being forced on them but for some reason CCSS has a sinister feel to it. The majority of teachers I have met, who are not cheerleaders for CCSS, are afraid to speak up. Many have confided that they are being threatened to “get on board.” One teacher told me she has retained a lawyer because she is being told that she is not “allowed,” even off campus, to speak poorly of CCSS. I appreciate that your experience is not the same as everyone in Washoe county or individuals around the state or the nation – can you appreciate that not everyone is a fan of CCSS in return?

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