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Common Cause on Common Core

Aug 7, 2013


A Canadian friend visited my family at Lake Herman this weekend. Wanting to pack as much South Dakota into one weekend as we could, we toured Madison, spent one afternoon at the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead in De Smet, and spent another afternoon at the Sioux Empire Fair. (I love playing tour guide.) 

At the fair, we found the South Dakota Tea Party booth. My Canadian friend picked up a flyer titled "Common Core Standards" and skimmed through the propaganda branding this education reform a federal power grab, United Nations indoctrination, and Soviet-style teaching.

Then she found this quote:

Common Core is just the latest flavor of business and government busybodies getting in the way of teachers teaching and students learning. 

The source of that quote?

Cory Allen Heidelberger, Veteran South Dakota Teacher 

"Cory!" my Canadian friend exclaimed, mirthfully aghast. "You're on a Tea Party flyer!"

Yup, I am. I know South Dakota Tea Partiers. On practical policy, they are mostly wrong. Their John Birch paranoia about the United Nations is as irrelevant to South Dakota education as it is to environmental policy and economic development.

But on Common Core, I'm lined up trepidatiously with my Tea Party friends ("Friends?!" frets my Canadian friend). Common Core is fuss and feathers that won't improve South Dakota's schools.

Common Core won't make good teachers better. Common Core simply writes down what good teachers already know and do. After spending an in-service day talking about Common Core standards and aligning them with existing lessons (been there!), a good teacher won't be any better prepared to teach your kids the next day or write engaging curriculum for next year.

Common Core won't make bad teachers better. Suppose you have a teacher who knows how to teach but is lacking on what to teach. Figuring out what to teach requires a teacher to study more than will ever fit into one school year, then critically evaluate what to teach and what to skip. That hard decision-making process makes a more thoughtful professional. Common Core standards short-circuit that professionalizing process and leave novice teachers on cognitive crutches.

Common Core wastes resources and distracts teachers from helping kids learn. Common Core may also give Wellstone Democrats and Tea Party conservatives a chance to find common cause and cooperate to improve our public schools... assuming, of course, that Tea Partiers want to improve our public schools.

My Canadian friend found the rest of literature in the Tea Party booth alarming. Her alarm makes me wonder if we hopeful liberals can collaborate with such fearful conservatives. 

But overall, my Canadian friend enjoyed her tour of South Dakota, especially of that funny twist in the road that led to my name on a Tea Party flyer.

Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a right-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard every other Monday on this site.

Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and has taught math, English, speech, and French at high schools East and West River.


05:46 pm - Wed, August 7 2013
Jerry said:
Why are you actually opposed other than being obviously irked for having to spend a day working with them?

The Common Core standards do not mandate what should be taught. That remains a local decision. They were developed to find the Common Cause of which you speak, and they have. They're not an end but a means.

Rather than dismiss them, consider the potential of a greater, Common approach. After all, America has fallen so far behind many other countries that we cannot afford to kill the messenger.
07:27 pm - Wed, August 7 2013
Jerry, having to spend a day working on something that doesn't produce real benefits ought to be enough reason for anyone to oppose such "work".

Local control seems a bit of a dodge here. Local schools have to follow Common Core. They have to show how what they teach aligns with Common Core. They have to submit to tests based on Common Core. That's not a lot of control. Real local control (and the best professionalism) involves having expert teachers choosing what to teach and how to teach it.

Do other countries follow the Common Core model? Do their better results accrue from that model?
07:42 pm - Wed, August 7 2013
Mrs. Teacher said:
I applaud Cory for speaking out against the Common Core standards. As an elementary classroom teacher I share his concerns and agree that these standards will not help teachers to teach better. The idea that our country is far behind other countries in terms of public education is a myth. Even if it was true - Common Core is not the solution. We need to address the real issue - poverty. Until we do, no amount of standards or testing will help our most needy children to be successful.
06:35 am - Thu, August 8 2013
Jerry said:

Teachers are, or should be, dedicated to do anything to help students achieve. One day's work is nothing in that light. This is a hit piece as objective opinion is to the contrary. Take it from Jeb Bush:

About local control, what you state has always been, in regards to state standards. These are just a different set of standards. A teacher's duty is to teach content aligned to them, again, same as before. Standardized testing is nothing new as it's been in vogue since NCLB's inception, many years ago.

To respond to your question, yes. In fact, common CURRICULA are employed as well. Great ideas that we should consider! Regardless, ask yourself - what DO they do to achieve higher results? Relevance and rigor as well as personal and shared responsibility are central. We lack that. Wouldn't it be great if we all got on the same page? That's the idea behind COMMON CORE standards. It is a starting point but we won't get anywhere if we obstinately refuse to leave the gate. That's all I am saying. Baby, bathwater.

Mrs. Teacher,

You should base your opinions on fact:

And the big picture:
09:58 am - Thu, August 8 2013
Mrs. Teacher said:
My opinions are based on fact, research, and my personal experience. Thank you for sharing the pages from Great Schools & STEM. Here is what I am concerned about ... basically that politicians & text-book companies wrote the CC standards.

I agree with you on several points. We need rigor, relevance, & shared responsibility. I also wish we would look to Finland (there were great ideas in your Great Schools article) & New Zealand for ideas. They have done wonderful things with public education.

Sadly, I do not see any of that in these Common Core standards. I am not opposed to standards - I am opposed to THESE standards. First, because of who they were written by, but also because they were written in a business-model style. Our schools are not assembly lines, we cannot run them like a business. Each child is unique and has different needs and desires and will end up filling a different role in our society. Our goal should be to nurture creativity, problem-solving, and global-thinking in our students; not subject them to a cookie-cutter system.

I am also opposed because of the standardized testing that is attached. I have taught in South Dakota for the last 10 years. Each year, I am forced to administer more & more testing - standardized & informal - which means less & less time for actual teaching and learning. Plus, these standardized tests do not tell me anything about my students & are therefore a waste of precious time. Plus, they send the wrong message to our students - that they are not smart enough. This is a message that I spend countless hours trying to keep OUT of my classroom. Some level of testing is necessary - but it does not need to be nearly as intrusive as it currently is.

If these issues were addressed - as well as poverty - then I could get on the same page with CC standards.
12:58 pm - Thu, August 8 2013
Jerry said:
Mrs. Teacher,

The link you shared references one, left-leaning assessment. Like Cory, I am not aligning myself politically but anyone with a vested interest in disputing the findings of others (e.g. the MANY assessments, not one as the Huff article states, that show how low we've collectively sunk) is not reliable.

Even if it were accurate, a perfunctory glance at the lack of critical thinking and other important skills in graduates today speaks volumes. We're in a Race to the Bottom. CC's not the problem. We are.

I too was a SD teacher but returned to the private sector because I wasn't allowed to teach; instead, I was expected to be a test administrator. I am glad you recognize that high-stakes testing is one of the actual issues. Be opposed to the real problem, NCLB, among other issues, and fight for the new 3Rs of rigor, relevance and relationships. If you and other teachers do that, then the standards won't matter, the students will have a whole education, and they'll do better on their tests. THAT is what makes a highly effective teacher and school.

CC is just another set of standards, guidelines to that end. What we do with it is still local, ours, and our responsibility. It's easy to take pot shots at what doesn't matter. It's hard to address what does.
06:30 am - Fri, August 9 2013
Whoa: Jeb Bush is objective opinion? Pardon my chuckle.

I'm always suspicious of getting on the same page. But if there is some benefit, I think we can get on that same page better by training great professionals, trusting them to choose the best things to teach, and teaching them well, rather than imposing on them the extra busy work of aligning to some top-down imposed set of standards and tests.

Common Core is not the baby. It's mostly bathwater. I agree that it's not that different from past standard-reform movements. It's the same hoop, just a different name. The fact that we've done a bad idea for a long time doesn't mean we should keep doing it.
06:37 am - Fri, August 9 2013
Imagine a school in which the administration declared, "No Common Core." Nothing else changes; we just don't spend any time discussing Common Core, aligning lesson plans or tests to Common Core, applying Common Core criteria in selecting textbooks and other material, etc. How would that harm students, teachers, or the general cause of education?

Review Jerry's own words: "Be opposed to the real problem, NCLB, among other issues, and fight for the new 3Rs of rigor, relevance and relationships. If you and other teachers do that, then the standards won't matter, the students will have a whole education, and they'll do better on their tests. THAT is what makes a highly effective teacher and school. // CC is just another set of standards, guidelines to that end. What we do with it is still local, ours, and our responsibility. It's easy to take pot shots at what doesn't matter. It's hard to address what does."

If Common Core doesn't matter, if I'm wasting my time taking "easy... pot shots" at it, then why is it important enough for schools and state governments to implement and spend money on?

I'm with Mrs. Teacher: the time we spend implementing someone else's standards and tests wastes time we could better use to serve our students.
09:35 am - Fri, August 9 2013
Jerry said:

I used Jeb Bush, a Republican, to show it has support from both sides of the aisle, but tell us - why does that make you chuckle? You're being dismissive, at best, which is and remains my original point.

Your suspicion is that - paranoia - much of the "rationale" against CC. The standards have not even been implemented yet so many are against them. I'd like to see an actual reason, not mere knee-jerk reactions.

Explain what you mean by "top-down imposed set of standards." If by top you mean the top officer of our nation, then you're wrong.

Here is who actually authored them:

Busy work? Sorry you look at it that way. Again, a highly-efficient teacher does ANYTHING to help their students achieve. Complaining indicates a lack of that ethic, as in Cory's case.

EXPLAIN what you mean by CC being bathwater. More pot-shots with nothing to back them up. Again, the standards have not been put in place yet but are under fire for purposed negatives, ignoring the positives.

We agree about hoops but again, this argument against CC deflects from the real issues.

Review your own words: "Imagine a school in which the administration declared, "No Common Core." Nothing else changes... How would that harm students, teachers, or the general cause of education?"
One need not imagine. Nothing has substantially changed in decades. Are you actually suggesting we just keep the failed status quo?

To answer your question, it is important enough for schools and state governments to implement and spend money on because:
09:36 am - Fri, August 9 2013
Jerry said:
1) It raises the bar on all states' standards, specifically the lower ones.
2) It directly addresses the post-secondary. So many districts' mission statements declare they're all about "lifelong learning" but how many actually put their money where their mouth is?
3) It addresses the higher-performing students overseas, the very ones with whom we're no longer competitive.
4) It connects states and gives them the opportunity to share best practices, the very ones you cite, in a way never before possible. It also offers collaboration regarding emerging technologies in the classroom.

Again, if you have better ideas, SHARE them. Killing the messenger doesn't help.
09:45 am - Fri, August 9 2013
Jerry said:
Everyone knows Internet debates are fruitless so I'll drop out here, but hopefully I have shared some food for thought.

I don't presume CC is the solution, rather, it's at least a step where none have been made for many years.

I hope it is successful but the only way we'll know is how better our kids do in college and the workplace, so time will tell.

Maybe others reading this will have better insight in support of CC than I have offered? Bueller... Bueller... Bueller... Anyone?

03:14 pm - Fri, August 9 2013
Fred Deutsch said:
At yesterday's joint school board & administrator's conference I attended two sessions on CC. One was presented by SD teachers and one by the DOE. Both were supportive of CC. All the teachers had a year of experience under their belts. The primary concern expressed by all the teachers was that new standards are a change -- teachers have to create new lesson plans and make other teaching accommodations. Change brings discomfort. The teachers provided examples from a variety of grade levels comparing problems students must solve in the new system to the old. It was evident the new system is much more rigorous and requires students to think more. I also found it interesting that all the major education associations in the state have aligned to support this - the SD Education Association, the Associated School Board Association of SD and the SD Administrators Association.
06:14 am - Sat, August 10 2013
Change brings discomfort, Fred, especially when it is not clear that it brings any positive results that are worth the effort.
06:15 am - Sat, August 10 2013
Jerry's working hard to portray me as paranoid, political, what-have-you, but he's never really addressed my original concern that this constant churn of standards movements doesn't do much to make good teachers or bad teachers better at their job.
06:27 am - Sat, August 10 2013
Internet debates are not fruitless: we share links and food for thought, we put people's views on the record for all to evaluate.

Jerry, I have put better ideas on the table. So does Mrs. Teacher. Train and hire top professionals, then trust them to do their job instead of tangling them in this constant churn of top-down policy reform and external testing.

Yes, top-down. CC doesn't come from local schools; it comes from state DoEs. (Tea Partiers say it comes from Obama, maybe the UN -- I leave them to defend that contention on their own.) Local schools have to do it because they are told to by Pierre.

Jerry tries to impugn my work ethic, too. Call Steve Morford, ask about my work ethic. A good teacher doesn't try "anything" to help kids. A good teacher takes a good look at all methods and materials and reforms available, then chooses the actions that appear to offer the best return on investment of effort. A good teacher does not simply go along with any given reform (and Jerry does not automatically win the argument) by saying "This reform is good for kids and you're a lazy bum if you don't agree!"

The status quo has not failed. The status quo educates 120K kids in South Dakota each year, and does a pretty good job. It's not perfect, but it's better than a lot of alternatives. When I ask what would happen if we dropped Common Core and Jerry responds by pointing at the "failed status quo" as a justification for doing something, that's like saying, "I want to require kids and teachers to wear propeller beanies every day. What happens if we don't require them to do that? Well, look at the current system! We haven't done propeller beanies for decades, and look at the failure that surrounds us! Yay, propeller beanies!"
06:30 am - Sat, August 10 2013
I smell some "change for the sake of change" in Jerry's arguments. That's the same fallacy that motivated No Child Left Behind and preceding reform movements, all of which have been discarded, all of which Jerry indicts with his negative verdict on the status quo, and from which Common Core naturally flows as just more policy churn that we will abandon in a decade or so when policymakers feel the need to rush off to some new busy work.

Bathwater: that's not some baseless potshot (when Jerry is losing, he just tries to declare an argument invalid by fiat). Common Core is not the baby. The kids are the baby. Quality professional teaching is the baby. Common Core could disappear tomorrow, and you'd still have all sorts of good teachers busting their chops for kids... plus those teachers would all have more time to concentrate on doing their jobs instead of recodifying their work (not revolutionize it, not necessarily change and improve it) to align it with Common Core. That busy work is the bathwater. Throw it out.
08:36 am - Sat, August 10 2013
Ed said:
Cody gets the last word cuz it's his message that a bunch of would like to see changed. Will change work who the dickens ever knows if it works until tried. except Cody knows.
04:20 pm - Sat, August 10 2013
dave tunge said:
Common core, IMHO, is nothing more than the feds trying to dumb down the teachers and students. It's all about equality, right? We need to have the students in the projects or poor areas on the same playing field as the students in the more affluent neighborhoods, right? What better way than to reduce the requirements or change them so the politicians call the shots instead of the teachers. I agree with Cory that we should let teachers teach. Especially here in the great state of SD where we are fortunate enough to find dedicated professionals who are committed to our kids even at the meager compensation they receive.
06:17 am - Mon, August 12 2013
Jerry said:

Methinks thou dost protest too much. Your responses to me and Fred are indicative of someone who is afraid of change let alone having to put forth the effort to adapt.

Get ready for some serious discomfort because it's coming next school year, whether you like it or not. Good for the kids. Bad for bad teachers, which is also good.

06:58 am - Tue, August 13 2013
Ed, I don't need the last word... but your comment appears to be missing a few words. Check that autocomplete!

Jerry, youthinks I protest too much? How long were your responses? That's a weak response on your part, dodging the issues. I don't fear change or effort; I do fear change for change's sake and effort that produces little reward. At no point do I say schools that are underperforming should not change. At no point do I advocate for lazy teachers. I do not argue that we should get rid of Common Core so teachers can do less work. I argue that we should get rid of Common Core so that teachers can divert every ounce of effort they waste on Common Core to activities that will have a direct, positive effect on their students' performance.

As I feared, Jerry appears more interested in distracting readers with ad hominem attacks instead of offering a consistent defense of the policy itself.

I don't see how Common Core weeds out bad teachers. At the top, I make the point that Common Core could actually enable bad teachers.

Dave, I appreciate your trust in teachers. Train teachers rigorously, hire the best, and Common Core standards become trivial to your school's daily excellence.
07:29 am - Tue, August 13 2013
Ed said:
Sorry I thought teachers figured out what us dummies can't. Better luck next time.
09:47 am - Tue, August 13 2013
Jerry said:

Deflect much? I gave concrete examples of what CC is designed to do. You have and still do not. CC hasn't happened yet so your stance rests on suppositions and nothing else other than your complaint of spending time working on this professional development.

The only personal attacks started and continue from you. You fear the change as well as the extra work. You have made that clear. I've made my points clear. But you will continue to spin it as you wish, hence my original comment about Internet debates being pointless. One cannot debate one who refuses to change - like you.

Common Core will be beneficial to all stakeholders and those who continue to not commit will be weeded out, thankfully.

Per your comment to Ed, you DO need the last word, caheidelberger. I'll give it to you as we both know which opinion will be correct in the end.
05:29 am - Wed, August 14 2013
More on change for change's sake:

"After seven years, Sager, now 29, quit, packing up this summer for Texas and becoming the latest teacher Hawaii could not keep as it tries to fill a seemingly perpetual teacher shortage. He said he was frustrated by constant educational experimentation" [AP, "Hawaii schools fill teacher shortage with recruits from mainland but struggle to keep them," 2013.08.10].

Requiring teachers to spend extra time chasing the latest educational fads takes away time they could spend working with students who need help. We don't need Common Core to take up our time and tell us what to do. Branding teachers as bad and lacking commitment because they find a particular reform distracting or useless is a cheap rhetorical trick.

Don't be fooled: Jerry hasn't offered concrete examples, just the standard ed-speak talking points that surround all "reform" movements. Trust me: in a few years, we'll look around, wondering why CC didn't make things better, and policy/corporate busybodies will scramble to create the impression of crisis and new "needs", and we'll shed CC just as we've shed NCLB. (Hmm, let's see... I think I managed to avoid any personal attacks in that response. ;-) )
05:35 am - Wed, August 14 2013
Ed said:
Maybe we could delay CC like is happening with O bummercare. Last word last word!!
06:49 am - Wed, August 14 2013
My two cents said:
caheidelberger always has to have the last word. A quick glance at many other articles shows her trolling and being a serial antagonist. I would not give her word, last or otherwise, any credit because she is more interested in arguments than discussion.
11:24 am - Wed, August 14 2013
Jerry said:
$.02 - I believe caheidelberger is the author of the article, in which case actually supports your assertion furthermore.

;-) )
11:15 am - Sat, August 24 2013
Not a last word, but some useful words from another teacher who sees the real problems with Common Core:

"I'm extremely skeptical that Core will do anything to help students learn. To the best of my memory, the Core represents the third set of reading standards South Dakota has used since 2001. Most of the Core's standards are mundane, neither markedly better nor markedly worse than their predecessors. There is, of course, the notable exception that the Core mandates that fiction comprises only 30% of a high school student's reading. That requirement should offend nearly every educated person in the country" [Leo Kallis, "Giving 'The Bluest Eye' a Black Eye Won't Stop Common Core Implementation," The Displaced Plainsman, 2013.08.23]."

I vouch for Leo as a diligent and talented teacher. His essay shows that opposition to Common Core doesn't have to be some ideological or personal slugfest, but a reasonable response from good teachers whose only interest is doing their jobs well.
11:16 am - Sat, August 24 2013
Link to Leo's essay:
03:49 pm - Sat, August 24 2013
Get another job if you don't like yours said:
adjective: sceptical; adjective: skeptical

not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations.
"the public were deeply skeptical about some of the proposals"
synonyms: dubious, doubtful, taking something with a pinch of salt, doubting;

Cory and all others' skepticism is exactly and only that - doubt and unfounded at that. Not once has any critic shared any actual evidence of why Common Core Standards will be anything but good for all stakeholders.

If Cory had actually paid attention during his much-maligned professional development devoted to the standards, he'd have known Leo's assertion regarding Fiction is cherry picking on its best day but in reality, false:

Cory probably already knows this but as we all know, has to have the last word which he won't have in this case because he is wrong, has no proof, yet will pound his propaganda to death.

Cory's vouching for Leo, based on his failure in this debate, also lessens Leo's credibility.

Shame on you, Cory, and all teachers who continue to throw out the baby with the bathwater. SD needs better teachers and next year, again, the bad will begin getting weeded out, thankfully.
09:18 am - Fri, August 30 2013
Sigh. As any debater knows, the burden of proof is on those proposing change to the status quo. We still have not been presented evidence that the time and money we spend on Common Core will make better teachers than allowing teachers to focus on the good work they are already doing. It's that simple.
04:07 pm - Fri, August 30 2013
Jerry said:


You are more interested in being correct than being factual. Others here know that - and you by your history of attacking others when things don't go your way. A perfunctory look at your blog is evidence.

For such a pseudo-intellectual, your debate skills mirror the very Tea Partiers you otherwise claim to disdain. Ironic but telling.

You are wrong, again. The burden is on YOU. You wrote the original piece. Now you have someone who disagrees with you and you cry foul. Weak. Really weak.

A fair analogy to your rationale would be: Anything new will fail as it has not happened yet.

It's THAT simple, as is your entire position - simplistic at best - false in reality.

To respond, I presented evidence above, the same I will copy for you below. You simply choose to ignore it while never giving one iota of evidence to the contrary.

09:36 am - Fri, August 9 2013
Jerry said:
1) It raises the bar on all states' standards, specifically the lower ones.
2) It directly addresses the post-secondary. So many districts' mission statements declare they're all about "lifelong learning" but how many actually put their money where their mouth is?
3) It addresses the higher-performing students overseas, the very ones with whom we're no longer competitive.
4) It connects states and gives them the opportunity to share best practices, the very ones you cite, in a way never before possible. It also offers collaboration regarding emerging technologies in the classroom.
Again, if you have better ideas, SHARE them. Killing the messenger doesn't help.

Cory? Better ideas other than supporting the failed status quo that you rail against in other blog postings, yet here defend? State them. Otherwise, THINK before you embarrass yourself again and find yourself hurting the very students you are morally obliged to help.

;-) )
11:29 am - Mon, September 2 2013
I think you missed my point, Jerry. Yes, you said stuff, but you showed no evidence that Common Core's doing of that stuff would result in educational outcomes better than those of the status quo or of any other adopted and abandoned policy churn of the last 20 years.

I did give you a better idea, and I'm not shooting any messengers, embarassing myself, or hurting any students. Stop the policy churn. Stop the standards imposed from above classroom and building level. Train teachers to excellence, then let those excellent professionals do what they know how to do better than any higher policymaker or "reform" addict.
04:02 pm - Mon, September 2 2013
Jerry said:
You have no point to be missed, Cory. You sound like a classic fanatic who fears change. Your arguments have no basis in reality because CC HAS NOT YET BEEN IMPLEMENTED. Until it is, and the results are KNOWN, your point is nothing more than hysterical paranoia and frankly, jumping on the bandwagon of all others who delight in trash-talking things they know nothing about.

I understand you are a contrarian. I get that. You're a blogger. Anyone can blog. Anyone can vent, even when completely wrong. Not anyone can make a difference. I challenge you to do more than flame others. Do tell, Cory - what have YOU done to make a difference? No, you can't use the trite "I make a difference every day as a teacher." Show evidence of what you are doing to CHANGE the system, not just complain about it, which is all you have so far done. EXPLAIN what this teacher excellence is because far too many of your so-called excellent professionals are mere blue collar workers for whom you still illogically go to bat.

You continue to weaken your vacuous stance when you make broad comments like, "policy churn...impose...reform addict." What next? Socialism? Terrorism? Santa? You're hoping something will stick but the facts are teflon. You are showing your desperation as paint yourself more into the corner. Yes, you have a right to your opinion, but so do others, and it obviously more than irks you when you chose a side poorly as in this case.

We'll have a beer when this is over, by the way.

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