Teachers at my son's high school have recently become very vocal in their dissatisfaction with Common Core standards in New York. Should I be worried that this is affecting the quality of my son's education?

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Lisa Beymer, Educational leader, Teacher

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Education tends to be a swinging pendulum of reform and initiatives, each leaving some teachers satisfied and other teachers unhappy. This is very typical, and as Jenny mentioned earlier, each teacher probably has their own opinion on why they do/do not support Common Core State Standards. Regardless, it is a federal initiative which becomes state mandate once it is "adopted" by the individual state. (Teachers generally feel uncomfortable with mandates that are handed to them like this in a "top-down" manner.) While some states and/or school districts are being provided leniency on how CCSS looks or is measured, the standards remain. So, basically, whether teachers like it or not, CCSS remains (for now).

My bigger concern would be that as a parent of a student in the school, you are very aware of this teacher's dissatisfaction with CCSS. This means that the teacher has been open enough about their dissatisfaction that it has affected students, and therefore affected students' educational experiences. (You insinuate that it is multiple teachers, which exacerbates the problem.) I believe this is unprofessional, and should be brought to the attention of the teacher and/or the administration for the betterment of students. (We're not looking for punitive measures here, but a conversation of professionalism and influence on students.) While teachers have a right to have opinions about mandates of their profession, it should not interfere with their job. And it certainly shouldn't directly affect their relationship with students and student families. In this case, their disdain for CCSS has spread to the students, trickled down to the parents, and made you question the education your student is receiving.

As Jenny mentioned earlier, I would suggest requesting a meeting with the teacher(s). It would be important to express to them any concerns you have. It would also be beneficial to hear what the teacher has to say about CCSS, research CCSS for your own benefit, and then determine your individual thoughts on CCSS. This will help you support your student.

Gina Badalaty, Parent of 2 kids with disabilities, Professional Blogger

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In speaking the teachers I know, some are worried that Common Core forces them to teach test-taking skills rather than teaching the skills a students need to be competent in the subject. It may be a sign that these teachers care about their students learning what they need to succeed as they move through the grades and onto college. That said, Common Core in New York State is being put up for evaluation by the new NYS Commissioner of Education. Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will be reviewing the state’s reading and math standards. Perhaps the teachers are being more vocal to express dissatisfaction in advance of this review. Either way, it is unprofessional to voice concerns so loudly, particularly in front of students that may have qualms about test-taking. Lisa has some very good points: before you go to discuss this with teachers and administrators, research the standards as they exist but make it clear you have concerns that students are aware of their opposition.

For more info, here is the official site for NYS CC standards: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/ciai/common_core_standards/.

I would also recommend you check out EngageNY, which is a site full of materials and resources to implement standards, including Common Core, for teachers.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I certainly understand your concern. As a Pennsylvania high school teacher, my colleagues and I are often engaged in conversations about changing standards and assessments. A large part of our frustration is the constant swinging, as Lisa mentions, of the "pendulum of reform and initiatives." She and Jenny make valid points about taking your concerns to involved teachers/administrators. In my experience, we teachers may complain about these standards, but most of us don't compromise our classroom instruction, even when we feel the pressures of time and test scores.

I agree that your son's teachers ideally shouldn't share their professional frustrations with students, but I also can think of various scenarios when such comments might "leak" out. If you suspect that one of your son's teachers is saying or doing something detrimental, I suggest sending her (him) a gentle and simple email that thanks her for her time and asks how the Common Core pressures might be affecting the classroom. This will send a subtle message. If she doesn't respond and your concern continues, send another email and ask for a phone appointment. I wouldn't contact an administrator until you've exhausted these efforts. Or if you do so beforehand, perhaps say that you value classroom instruction and you are concerned about increasing pressure on students and teachers. Then CC your son's teachers on that email, so that they know your motivation is to help and not scold them.

Jenny Bristol, Homeschooling Parent, Writer, and Editor

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Not all states have adopted the Common Core standards, and those states have state-level standards that are used instead. It is likely that the teachers in your son's school have very specific reasons as to why they are dissatisfied with Common Core. I highly recommend that you make an appointment to talk to someone at the school to learn more about their reasons, and take that opportunity to express your concerns about your son's education. Perhaps the teachers have an alternate suggestion. Perhaps they don't like the way the state of New York is wanting them to implement the standards, rather than disliking the standards themselves. I am sure that the teachers have the educational quality of all of the kids in the forefront of their minds. But to get more information, talk with the teachers and administrators at your son's school. Since you are in charge of your son's education, you are in the best position to make decisions that will ensure he gets the kind of education you believe he needs.

milan joy, nice post

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M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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I agree with what the above expert said about teachers always having been held to standards, and always been required to teach standards. Everybody is acting like this is a brand new concept. To be honest, many of the Common Core Standards are exactly the same as the state standards that were being taught before, they just have a different name now. If anything, I'd say that the CCSS just break some larger, more broad standards that were used in the past down to some more particular concepts, many of which were covered before, but they were articulated differently, usually in much longer, paragraph-long statements, whereas now they are broken into 11 or 12 different pieces.

We are not reinventing the wheel here. I think the real uproar is over standardized testing. Many educators feel that the standards they are teaching are geared solely towards these tests, and ensuring students' success on them. However, there really should be more creative outlets for teachers and students alike to be able to utilize these standards towards a more enriching curriculum. The standardized tests obviously do not allow for this, and with many schools and school districts giving 3, sometimes 4 different standardized tests over the course of a school year, obviously this is overkill.

Here in Seattle, after a strike, teachers agreed to basically one major standardized test per year, the Smarter Balanced assessment, and reached an agreement to have teacher evaluations be much less connected to students' success on these tests. That is obviously because there are so many problems with the test itself, and yet they take up so much of the schools' time and attention to prepare and administer these tests. All in all, I'd say the CCSS are fine as they are, and like anything else, teachers and students will need some time to adjust to how exactly to fit lesson plans and units into their framework in order to make them acceptable to both parents and administrators alike. I don't think this will take long at all, and the more the parents and administrators are willing to take an active role in ensuring this transition is a smooth one, the more quickly we will see students succeeding consistently under this model.

Susan E. Coryat, Secondary Ed. English, M.Ed., Reading Specialist, and Parent!

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I see this topic is over a month old, but I felt compelled to respond. As a high school English teacher, I am automatically wondering about the context of the conversations in which these teachers are expressing their opinions. There are many scenarios (and I know they exist, sadly) where people complain in an unprofessional and inappropriate way to the wrong audience. THAT is unacceptable; however, I'd like to believe that the professionals with whom I share a vocation are not vastly populating that circle. Context matters so much. I can't speak for everyone, but I can share that I have had conversations with students which would, when relayed to someone outside of the situation, sound like complaining, but that's absolutely not what I was doing. Many of us have been working with "remediating" students who haven't passed the adopted standardized tests which, for high school students, have become even higher stakes, if that's possible. Kids are panicked and frustrated. When I express my dissatisfaction with our new standards, I'm not actually dissatisfied with the standards themselves, but incredibly unhappy about they way they put pressure on kids to perform tasks in new ways using new language with extraordinary stress. I express my frustration WITH them about the situation they are now in. And, I try to open the dialogue for them to become a part of the situation and the solution. High school students can and do want to take ownership in the education and these new standards and the new testing has actually opened up many teachable moments in my classroom. Please, ask your children how THEY feel about the standards. What do they actually know about them? Do they only think of them as new tests? They are much more than that and there are some great benefits to them in some ways. I love to explain to my students that we can open the curriculum even wider now and explore new texts because of the new standards. Looking for the positives really helps, but I believe it's important to explore some of the negatives with the kids who are actually the participants of this major shift. It's not all about the teachers. We need to open the conversation to the students and hear their voices so we can use their feedback. We need the kids to go home an talk to their parents so we can hear from the parents and use their feedback. At the secondary level, I want to believe that this is a conversation that can happen in a healthy, productive, and professional way.

Stacey Ebert, Educator, Writer, Event Planner, Traveler

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I can understand your concerns and appreciate that you are interested and concerned with your child's education. As a former classroom high school teacher, I would not be concerned with teachers' dissatisfaction with the common core at all impacting that of your child's education. Consider that teachers have always been held to standards, have always had to follow a syllabus with core materials and requirements for graduation and the majority of teachers have student's best interests at heart. Whether they believe in the Common Core or not, they will still teach your child to the best of their ability and be sure that he/she receives the very best they have to offer.

Teachers are people too. There are times that their feelings regarding state/federal/district mandates will come through in their lessons - whether that is right or wrong may be up for debate, but regardless, I believe that it has nothing to do with the level of education your child will receive. However, as those above have mentioned, if it does concern you, I would suggest you either speak to the teacher, the department chairperson or someone at the administrative level-but always start with the teacher. He/she may be able to assuage your fears much more easily than someone not in the classroom with them.

Vielka Cecilia Hoy, Founder/Director at Vielka Hoy Consulting, Teacher, and Parent

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As a teacher and department chair in California, I actually really like Common Core. We are tasked with asking more in-depth questions (how, why, apply to something else in your life), rather than knowing and then repeating data without analysis. The changes seem more focused on college and career readiness, which is always a good thing.

The complaints haven't been about teaching to a test since the opposite seems to be true especially as the tests are adapting to the changes. The complaints are more in line with the previous responses regarding constantly having to switch curriculum and the time and resources we are given to implement the changes. As an example, I teach AP US History; it was revised last year to fit with the Common Core and then again this year to adjust to the criticism of the changes. This means in three years, I've revised one course three times. Having been in education for over eighteen years, I'm assuming there will be more changes coming. Considering pay and time, you can see why teachers are upset, even if they are like me and actually appreciate the changes.

I share the concern about teachers expressing their dissatisfaction to students and families. There are broader implications related to opting out of tests and state-funding that makes that a particularly gray area. I would also add that despite what the teacher feels, your student is theoretically taking that class once and earning a grade that will remain on her/his transcript, a document that will be used for college, employment, and whatever else your student wants to do later. So I also recommend meeting with the principal to ensure that their dissatisfaction around the sustainability of a course does not impact the young people who are there in the short term.

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