New curriculum standard is a waste

After attending the Fayette County Board of Education meeting last month and listening to the pleas from teachers and educators to not cut benefits and salaries for teachers, we were all introduced to the newest update on a mandate handed down from the state requiring a curriculum change to comply with the new “Common Core Curriculum Standards Initiative.”

The air got instantly heavy in the room, and everyone was exacerbated at the thought that we were going to have to revamp our curriculum once again to comply with the state and, despite the enormous undertaking that this is, there will be no funding to implement it.

Wonderful — since we are already approximately $11 million in the hole for 2010-2011.

After I finished mulling over the absurdity of mandating another program and not funding it, and listening to the presentation on what exactly would be required to implement it given the recent completion of the Georgia Performance Standards in our county, I began to decipher why it is that the state of Georgia is participating in this.

Feel free to read all about it yourself at www.corestandards.org/.

The best I can tell as a lay person, not an educator, is that this is an initiative aimed at promoting a common standard that can be implemented across all states for the purposes of achieving a higher level of education nationwide in language arts and math.

Sounds great, right?

One problem is that the second we establish a “standard” and base our curriculum on achieving this standard, then we risk teaching a standard and not really educating.

Teachers have an absurd number of “requirements” that they must meet in the classroom. Often times meeting these requirements actually detracts from being able to teach.

I translate this new mandate as another requirement, which may have the best intentions, but in practice becomes another checkbox on the long “to do” list every teacher must accomplish in between recess, special classes, lunch, assemblies, standardized tests, student sick days, meetings and conferences.

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs there is. The best way the government can help them is to let them teach. Allow them to cater their curriculum to their class, instead of the other way around.

We all know there are many roads that can take us to the same place. The challenge as a teacher is finding the way that works for them.

Programs like this do not help teachers to teach. They force teachers to become less like teachers and more like robots. They also in the long run will purge the creative, inspiring, great teachers, who will find other ways to make a living as they discover there is no reward for excellence.

Complacency and adherence to the “standard” will become the norm because that is what we promote with programs like this.

If the government wants to improve education in this country, they should foster competition by giving the power back to the local jurisdiction. Empower local jurisdictions to determine how they spend their money, what they teach and how they teach it. Reward them based on merit and performance. Support our teachers by trusting them to teach. Step away from developing required mandates which only serve to compartmentalize teachers and students and foster mediocrity.

This is just one mom’s opinion, and there are a lot of forces behind this new program, all with the greatest of intentions. But in my mind, we all need to take responsibility for our kids and their education.

Reactionary federal mandates are not going to suddenly improve the quality of education in this country. Parents and students need to prioritize and take responsibility for learning and teachers need to be trusted and encouraged to teach outside of a predetermined box.

Only when education is a priority in our homes and innovation and creativity encouraged in the classroom will the groundwork be set for excellence.

If you have an opinion on this topic, I encourage you to write Kathy Cox at kathy@votekathycox.com.

Beth Pullias

Peachtree City, Ga.

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