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The Madera Tribune

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Why Common Core isn’t needed

July 31, 2016

One of the most frustrating things about public education today is that the federal Department of Education keeps trying to run the schools, but while its motives may be pure, its tinkering more often than not makes things worse.


The infamous Common Core, for example, was shoved down the throats of educators who adopted it, such as we did in California. Common core, however, generally made education worse instead of better. It was meant to be the foundation for a national curriculum — something that wasn’t needed, but which its writers thought was necessary.


Instead of improving education, it turned students and teachers into test mills.


Which is too bad, because the ways to improve schools are right in front of us. All we have to do is look at what already works best and apply it elsewhere.


We also need to remind ourselves that in general, students from poorer homes have a harder time in school. Unless their parents make an extra effort to help their kids get through school successfully, those children will fall behind. The parent is as much the teacher, in the home, as is the teacher in the school.


Maybe instead of spending billions trying to wedge Common Core into the educational system, some money could be well spent by having home visitors from the schools work with parents to help their children study, and work with the children on subjects with which they are having problems or in which they might want to do extra work.


Schools should be smaller. Beyond a certain size of school, students become like cattle at a dairy regardless of efforts to treat them as individuals.


Big schools have big problems.


Diane Ravitch, an educational historian and author of “The Life and Death of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education,” has examined Common Core and found it destructive.


Writing in The New York Times of July 24, she says that racial and household-income disparities are much greater determinants of student success than are contrived tests.


She also says teachers should be in charge of designing curricula, not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., or Sacramento.


“If we really cared about improving the education of all students,” Ravitch writes, we would give teachers the autonomy to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the children in front of them, and to write their own tests. We would insist that students in every school had an equal opportunity to learn in well-maintained schools in classes of reasonable size, taught by expert teachers ... That doesn’t require national standards or national tests, which improve neither teaching nor learning.”
I think we’ve just learned something.

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