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Letter to the editor: An open letter to the state board of education

Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 12:01 am

For the first time, Oct. 2, my husband and I attended an Indiana State Board of Education meeting. As a teacher, retired for the last five years, I regret that I had never, firsthand, observed your efforts to address the needs of Indiana students. I greatly appreciate your work to promote excellence and accountability in our schools. My career involved mainly teaching fourth- and fifth-graders. I loved teaching. I believe respecting children and their parents, treating every child with dignity, arming them with knowledge and modeling appropriate civility give them the tools needed to grow into confident citizens.

Since we were attending the 3rd Legislative Committee Hearing on Common Core State Standards on Oct. 1 in the Indiana State Senate Chamber, we decided to stay overnight in Indianapolis and attend the Indiana State Board of Education meeting on Oct. 2. Retirement has given us time to study government issues.

For several months we have been especially focused on educating ourselves about Common Core Standards (Point of clarification: The word “state” in “State Standards” is misleading, because they are coming from the federal government). From the vantage point of having attended both meetings as well as spending 23 years in the classroom, I would appreciate your considering the following:

In the process of educating ourselves about CCSS, we attended an informational conference at the University of Notre Dame, Sept. 9.

We’re grateful some of our Indiana legislators and David Freitas, member of the Indiana State Board of Education, were present. Data-driven information that exposed the weaknesses of CCSS was well presented. We appreciated, too, that a good deal of the day was devoted to best practices that would ensure success in our children’s education,

Andrew Kern, founder and president of the CiRCE Institute, which provides research and consulting services to classical educators, stressed the need for children to read great imaginative literature. Common Core’s heavy emphasis on informational text stifles creativity.

Sandra Stotsky, member of the Common Core Validation Committee, who would not sign on to Common Core, explained that Common Core requires, “Over 50 percent of reading instruction must be informational text in K-12.” She said this reduces time to develop critical thinking skills in our students.

Patrick Deneen, professor of constitutional studies at Notre Dame, pointed out, “If we settle for utilitarian mindset, children will lose the art of ruling self.” Deneen further expanded this point by way of five ascending aims of educating our young.

One of the teachers, who addressed your board meeting Oct. 2 on the topic of social studies, pointed out the need for students to receive much more instruction on the workings of government/civics, when he pointed out the low voter turnout.

Another teacher addressing the ISBOE meeting who was in favor of Common Core related that she uses the Indiana state standards along with the Common Core standards to establish her curriculum. However, when CCSS is fully implemented only Common Core will be permitted.

We are puzzled that near the end of the meeting Superintendent Ritz expressed the need for a “higher education panel to determine if ISTEP is college-ready.” Shouldn’t that have been decided when ISTEP was first developed? Shouldn’t the Common Core State Standards be immediately eliminated because they do not prepare students for a four-year college degree?

According to James Milgram, professor of mathematics emeritus at Stanford University, who would not sign on to Common Core, the weak requirement for graduating seniors only needing Algebra II, does not make students college-ready!

In closing, as Stotsky pointed out, Common Core State Standards are not rigorous. They are not internationally benchmarked; children cannot benefit from reading historic documents out of context (in the name of providing [disconnected] informational text). We have Indiana standards. Let’s strengthen those and not start over. Do not experiment with our Hoosier children.

Patricia Geise

Lake James