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Two Sides to Common Core

Shane Gaffney (Class of 2018)

(Lifetouch - used with permission)

Shane Gaffney (Class of 2018)

Aaron Christian, Staff Writer

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Surely by now you have heard about the Common Core, those new standards your teachers keep talking about. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the United States that outlines what kindergarten through grade 12 should know in English Language Arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. Common Core was not created by the Massachusetts Board of Education, but by a group convened by the National Governors Association who helped write the standards in the areas of mathematics and English.

This initiative was started by the United States Government, which has had a lot of controversy over the legality. Forty-four out of 50 states have joined the Common Core, and five states voted to repeal or replace it. The Common Core’s standards were released on June 2, 2010, with most of the states adopting them in later months. Many states were given an incentive to adopt the Common Core, and in return they were given ‘Race to the Top’ federal grants, which were announced by President Barack Obama as motivation for educational reform. This has also put the standards into some hot water.

Dr. Elizabeth Gonsalves, Department Head for English Language Arts, grades 7-12 for Abington Public Schools as well as a Partnership for Assessment for College and Career Educator Leader has voiced support for the Standards; while Shane Gaffney, (AHS Class of 2018) freshman and President of Abington Against Common Core (an informal student group), opposes the standards.

Dr. Elizabeth Gonsalves

(Lifetouch used with permission)
Dr. Elizabeth Gonsalves

Dr. Gonsalves began teaching in public schools in 1996, at a time when Massachusetts had just released their first set of standard,s which we know as the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. According to Dr. Gonsalves, the standards were not adopted similarly in all states, but were edited for Massachusetts students; “There have been revisions in the Massachusetts frameworks, changes in the Massachusetts Comprehensive System (MCAS) and the new Common Core State Standards. Massachusetts adopted the standards and folded them into additional requirements for students, which are now tested through revised MCAS tests.” “[Common Core] includes what earlier sets of standards could not – 21st century digital literacy,” explained Dr. Gonsalves.

According to the Common Core State Standards website “…standards are aligned to the expectations of colleges, workforce training programs, and employers. The standards promote equity by ensuring all students are well prepared to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.” “When a student leaves high school after contact with the Common Core State Standards, he or she should be a more independent learner, one who can continue learning in order to take part in life itself. Whether someone is planning on college or not upon graduation from high school, all of us are planning on careers and participating as a citizen in our community. The Common Core State Standards, as adopted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, are an improvement over previous standards, because students are responsible for more and more challenging work, and will graduate high school with a strong command of the skills necessary for life in the 21st century,” said Gonsalves during an interview for this article.

Gaffney (AHS Class of 2018) disagrees with Dr. Gonsalves. “For many years the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been a prosperous, industrious environment for its population. Not only were we a very successful state, but we have a long history of educating our people, and fighting for what we believe in,” said Gaffney. He believes that the Common Core dumbs down students from the healthy Massachusetts Frameworks. “There are two main things that I, and many other Massachusettsans find wrong with Common Core – the fact it was implemented without a referendum, because our government was bribed to use it, and the standards (themselves),” said Gaffney.

Gaffney claims that the Common Core breaks three federal laws: (General Education Provisions Act (20 USC § 1232a), Department of Education Organization Act (20 USC § 3403(b) and Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 USC 7907(a)); in addition to Amendment X. According to Gaffney, Common Core violates General Education Provisions Act 20 USC § 1232a because on their website, they express interest in creating and regulating textbooks for the states. “Unlike previous state standards, which varied widely from state to state, the Common Core enables collaboration among states on a range of tools and policies, including the development of textbooks, digital media, and other teaching materials,”said Gaffney.

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The law states, “no provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance.”  “Amendment X says, ‘the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.’ This clearly means that education must be decided by the states, or the people, not bribed into implementation because of Race to the Top grants,” said Gaffney.

So, these are at least portions of two views on Common Core standards. For more information in favor of the Common Core, visit corestandards.org. For more on opposition to the common core, you might start by reading “Top 10 Reasons to Oppose Common Core” by Julie Borowski at freedomworks.org.

Full Disclosure – Green Wave Gazette Staff Writer Aaron Christian is a member of the informal student group Abington Against Common Core.

 

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Two Sides to Common Core