The Common Core standards, gradually being implemented in Tennessee and most other states, are said to encourage critical thinking to solve math problems. They also focus on advanced thinking processes in speaking, reading and writing, so that all students will be ready for college and careers. It sounds good, but not everyone is sold on it.
Brian and Sue Jerd have two high-achieving kids, who attended McConnell Elementary School in Hamilton County. Now their children are the most recent of 386 students to leave the school district this year, in favor of home schooling. That's a 27 percent increase over last year. The reason, according to the Jerds, can be summed up in two words. Common Core.
As an example, they cite math problems that were once easy for their fourth grader Aaron to solve, his way. Now they say, the problems are designed in a way to cause frustration.
Aaron said, "They were giving me problems that I could work out in my head, but now there's extra stuff, and it takes a long time." His mother Sue adds, "My son would sit at the table in tears He'd tell me, I can do it my way, why do I have to do it this way? It would take a full sheet of paper and thirty minutes to solve a simple math problem."
Karen Bracken is an activist who is opposed to Common Care. She calls it a threat to parental rights, a takeover of local education by the government, and a money grab by outside interests who prepare testing materials. Each week she visits legislators in Nashville, carrying letters and e-mails from parents and teachers who say Common Core should be removed from the state's classrooms.
Bracken said, "No one has been able to show me proof that these standards are better than what we've had."
Common Core supporters say the new standards should be given a chance. Pointing to Tennessee's low academic scores, they say students need to learn how to think, rather than just being able to repeat information.
Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff has had to face criticism in his own district and from Bradley County, where Commissioners and School Board members have been harshly critical of Common Core. Ringstaff said, "Our job in education is to prepare students for college and career readiness, and these standards gives our students a fighting chance in today's world."
The Jerd family says the damage has already been done. They're seeing more friends leave the public schools this year, and say school administrators and legislators need to take notice.
Sue Jerd said, "This is the time, elementary school, where children should be looking forward to every class. But Common Core is just killing it."
We attempted to get a comment from Hamilton County school officials on the Common Core standards. We were passed around to various offices, but no one would agree to comment. However, the Board of Managers of the Hamilton County Council of PTAs tells us they support the full implementation of the Common Core state standards in Tennessee and in Hamilton County public schools.
For more information on Common Core standards in Tennessee, featuring frequently asked questions: http://www.tncore.org/
For the Facebook page on "Stop Common Core": https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Tennessee/322248557894269
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