Allen challenges Butler’s opinion on school standards

October 26, 2013

Jim [Butler], I recently read your editorial piece in my local newspaper in Mason, West Virginia. I am a school teacher that has spent numerous days over the last six months working with the new NextGen standards, and I just wanted to clarify some of the points you have made. I do not wish to show you disrespect, but I completely disagree with your arguments.

First of all, you mention that “even the teachers that I have spoken to know little about it,” with regards to the new standards. If this is true, than you are speaking to the wrong teachers! There have been numerous workshops and school district discussions for two years now devoted wholly to getting information out about the new standards. I spent a week this past summer at Glenville State University studying the new standards for the 8th and 10th grade language arts classes that I teach. If teachers do not get it by now, they need to work harder in their preparations.

Second of all, you mention that Algebra II is the new math standard. There is a simple reason for that: not all students go on to college. College-bound students will take geometry, calculus and trigonometry classes. Vocational students will take Algebra II and finish there. Why? Because trade schools do not require higher-level math courses for admittance. Why force a future associate degree student to take higher-level classes that he or she does not want to take and will never use? This is a good thing! It gives those students more flexibility to take the classes that they need for their particular trade, such as art or science classes. It also allows some students to finish high school a year early and head to their post-high school choice a year sooner. Again, this is a good thing.

You mention the English issue with regards to literature getting thrown by the wayside. This is a common red herring among anti-Common Core people. I found your use of Frankenstein particularly comical because my 10th grade English class just began reading that novel a week ago! Common Core does not ask teachers to remove literature in place of informational text. Instead, it asks us to tie literature in to current events through the use of informational text. I have been doing this in my classroom for years through the use of newspapers and Internet web sites. No changes for me!

You also mention that the standards are not tied to children’s’ development cycles. Let me get one thing clear to you: these are teaching standards, not teaching lesson plans. A teacher has to take these standards and find a way to teach them to children in a developmentally appropriate way. Teachers have been doing this for as long as teaching has been taking place!

Finally, you mention assessments. West Virginia has hired out its testing for years with the creation of the WesTest. They are now moving to a new testing called Smarter Balance. It is similar to the WesTest. As far as tying it into teacher evaluations, that is a small part of the evaluation process for teachers, which has also undergone a major revamping this year. I like the teaching assessment changes, as well.

I personally am very excited about the change to Common Core, and I have already begun implementing major components of it. I have a quote that I use when discussing Common Core: “It really isn’t a big change. It’s asking good teachers to keep teaching well, and it’s asking poor teachers to start teaching better!” Nobody should have a problem with that.

Brian Allen

Mason, W.Va.