Cirque du Common Core – Day 2

From the Miami Herald’s coverage of the Davie Common Core hearing, titled “Critics at forum blast controversial new school standards as ‘Communist Core'”:

Broward’s passion-filled event at times featured boos or applause. Though not everyone who showed up was opposed to Common Core, there were plenty of angry critics in the crowd.

Among their various complaints: that Common Core amounts to a de facto national curriculum; that standardized testing will increase, and that the new guidelines place unreasonable expectations upon the youngest of schoolchildren.

“We’re telling you we don’t want this, bottom line,” said David Knop, a parent of two children, ages 6 and 9, who lives in Pembroke Pines. “We want somebody to start listening to us.”

Defenders of the new standards, including Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, said the change will empower students — ensuring that they graduate high school with the knowledge needed for college or a career.

“Our students need to be able to think critically,” Runcie said. “They need to be able to look at information and be able to analyze it, develop solutions…those are the skills that we are pursuing.”

The Common Core standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states, were developed by the National Governors Association with heavy support from the Gates Foundation. Though the Obama administration didn’t write the standards, it has strongly encouraged states — through the use of federal grant dollars — to adopt them.

That support from the president has only fueled the rage coming from Tea Party Republican groups, who have been among the most vocal critics of Common Core. During Wednesday’s town hall, the standards were blasted as “Obama Ed” or “Communist Core”.

Along a more rational line of thinking:  Common Core opponents argue that the reduction in emphasis on reading literature (to be replaced by reading informational texts) will hurt the development of students’ critical thinking skills – a dubious claim.  This claim was featured in the opening comments by Common Core critic Karen Effrem last night.  Critical thinking skills seem to be subject-dependent so that, for example, analyzing Jane Eyre probably doesn’t help you better learn about energy.  Sherman Dorn suggested this primer on the topic from a 2007 issue of American Educator.

Cirque du Common Core arrives in Tallahassee for its third performance tonight.  Welcome to my town!

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