Op-Ed: Withdraw from the Common Core

I am a retired Wolcott teacher and I am offering my expert testimony.

I am an expert on children and I can make that claim because I have spent thousands of days with children, unlike the writers of the Common Core who never spent one day trying out their standards on actual children.

Op-ed submit bugAnd my testimony is that current education policy, which started with No Child Left Behind, then went into overdrive with Race to the Top and now Common Core and SBAC testing, has turned our schools into test prep factories, sucking the joy out of teaching and learning.

Common Core is a very expensive experiment with no evidence to support the claim that it will make students “college and career ready.”  It will fail just as No Child Left Behind failed to make all children “proficient” by this year.

My greatest concern is the pressure on our youngest students to perform in ways that do not match their brain development.  The joint statement of Early Childhood Health and Education professionals, signed by more than 500 early childhood experts, explained how the standards were developmentally inappropriate for our youngest students.

Requiring young students to “discover” math algorithms and think abstractly ignores Piaget’s stages of cognitive development which state that most children are not able to think abstractly until they are 11 years old.

A recent study reported in Canada’s National Post stated that rather than “discovery based learning” (which Common Core promotes) young children, like the 7-9 year olds in this brain study, need to memorize. “As young math students memorize the basics, their brains reorganize to accommodate the greater demands of more complex math. It is a gradual process, like ‘overlapping waves’, but it clearly shows that, for the growing child’s brain, rote memorization is a key step along the way to efficient mathematical reasoning.”

Play has disappeared from our kindergarten classrooms as teachers are forced to try to make 5-year-olds read and write before they are ready.  Early childhood specialist and advocate Susan Ochshorn explains that intentional, make-believe play is where little ones develop the part of their brains that has to do with self-regulation. A child’s ability to self-regulate is a better predictor of academic success than IQ and social class.

Recent national polls have shown that support for Common Core is waning, most dramatically among teachers.  A recent U.S. News and World Report article stated that teachers supporting Common Core dropped from 76 percent in 2013 to 46 percent in 2014.  Teachers opposed to Common Core rose from 12 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2014.

The research is clear and supports what we teachers have known all along.  Young children cannot be forced to learn things before they are ready and play lays the foundation for academic success later on.

In Connecticut we have tens of thousands of experts on children, whether retired like me, or teaching in our classrooms every day.

Connecticut needs to withdraw from Common Core and replace it with standards written by those experts: Connecticut teachers.

Kathy Cordone taught for 37 years and is a former Wolcott Teacher of the Year and former Wolcott Board of Education member.

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