As I listened to an interview with North Dakota’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kirsten Baesler, on Joel Heitkamp’s show yesterday, I realized that Ms. Baesler is either delusional or a liar. Maybe both. On Tuesday, the Bismarck Tribune reported in an article titled, “North Dakota to Write Standards Replacing Common Core,” that Baesler said, “We will create a set of standards by North Dakotans for North Dakotans.” This, and previous comments by Baesler following the state Republican Convention, led many to believe that North Dakota was preparing to do just that.
Well, it seems that in North Dakota the politics can change just as quickly as the weather. Yesterday Baesler told Joel Heitkamp and all his listening audience that “absolutely not” has she given up on Common Core. Did you catch the lie? You see, North Dakotan’s did not write the Common Core State Standards, nor will they. That effort was coordinated and carried out by the National Governor’s Association (NGO) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). By the way, you can read about that on the Department of Public Instruction’s own web site in the Foreword to the standards.
It is true that a committee will be formed here in North Dakota to review the standards, but changes to the standards themselves will likely be very minimal. In fact, a copyright is held on them with the allowance that states can make some minor modifications (preferably not more than 15%). Most of those changes would be in the form of additions, not subtractions. Those additions would primarily be for “clarification” purposes (as mentioned in the Foreword to the standards).
Many wonder what the big deal is with Common Core. The Common Core State Standards are a one-sized-fits-all approach to education in the areas of Math and English. The standards are also unproven, something former president of the North Dakota Education Association, Peg Portscheller, admitted to at a teacher’s in-service I attended a few years ago. She also admitted that the participating states would either succeed or fail together.
Our Republic was set up so that states could be laboratories of sorts. Each could chart their course and learn from each other. When it comes to education, Common Core scrapped this vital principle. Instead of looking to states that have very good educational standards and test scores, their approach was to scrap them all in exchange for Common Core's unproven standards.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the test utilized with Common Core. It's rollout in North Dakota was a nightmare. It is also computer-based which means more money is needed for school districts to have the technology necessary to administer the tests. Those students that cannot keyboard well often struggle and get frustrated on tests. In some cases now, keyboarding is taught for the purpose of improving student’s skills for taking the test. This sounds fairly harmless, but it cuts into other core areas to make time for it. For example, in my classroom it cuts out one of my Spelling/Reading periods for the week.
I think that we can all agree that there are problems in public education, but these problems are not going to be resolved by Common Core. Nor will these problems be solved so long as we have a Superintendent of Public Instruction that supports one-size-fits-all approaches to education. If Ms. Baesler truly wants “a set of standards by North Dakotans and for North Dakotans,” then she is going to have to help rid us of the Common Core State Standards and advocate for local control of education. She would also do well to stop insulting the intelligence of parents, teachers, and citizens of North Dakota. Unfortunately, her dishonesty is not surprising.
I wish more teachers across the nation would speak out on issues like Common Core. I know that I am not alone in how I feel about them. Unfortunately, some fear scrutiny or repercussions. Thankfully, I have no problem saying that I want the Common Core State Standards gone and Kirsten Baesler along with them.