I’m conservative, I’m for school choice and I back Common Core

Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.
Wendy Howard: Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Editor’s note: Wendy Howard is executive director of Florida Alliance for Choices in Education, a group that includes a wide range of school choice organizations, including Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog. A shorter version of this post ran this week as a letter to the editor in the Tampa Bay Times. Given Wendy’s conservative political bent, her staunch support for school choice and the concerns about Common Core, we thought it worthwhile to share a fuller version.

With attacks on the Common Core State Standards for education coming from both sides of the aisle, what are parents to think?

I’ve heard Common Core is Obama’s agenda to indoctrinate our children. I’ve heard it’s an unconstitutional federal takeover. I’ve even heard it’s a scheme to perform experiments nationwide on our next generation. After doing some research, I learned none of those concerns hold water. The bickering continues, however, while our children suffer the consequences.

The fact is, our kids need higher standards for education. Let’s look at a couple of disconcerting facts from the perspective of a parent with two children attending a public charter school.

Forty percent of Florida’s class of 2013 who took the ACT college entrance exam were graded “not college ready” in any subject, which is higher than the national average of 31 percent. As a parent, this has huge financial implications. If my children are part of these statistics, I will have to pay for remedial classes in college, something I simply cannot afford. As a taxpayer, I expect my child’s diploma to mean she actually succeeded in high school and can move right into college courses. As a nation, millions of kids and their parents are impacted each year when that turns out not to be the case.

Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.

Here’s another troubling statistic: Thirty percent of high school graduates can’t pass the U.S. military entrance exam, which is only focused on basic reading and math skills. At what point does the lack of high standards become a national security issue? If the learning gap between the U.S. and other countries continues to rise, which country becomes the next super power? What does our country look like in 20, 40, 60 years? I guess that depends on whether we look at the achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries as a crisis – or another issue we kick down the road.

As if that’s not enough cause for concern, the U.S. has more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs vacant because there are not enough qualified people to fill them. Even though studies show much progress in Florida, such as a 21 percent increase in high school graduation rates between 1999 and 2010, we are not where we need to be. There is much work to be done. We must raise the bar.

Our children will meet those expectations once we work together and stop fighting one another. Education must be about the children and no longer about the adults, no matter what your political beliefs. We cannot continue to let politics take over and allow our next generation to keep falling behind.

While some of the criticism about Common Core is rooted in valid concerns about protecting our children’s privacy and our state’s freedom, the drama is misdirected. One of the conservative sites I follow put out a top 10 list of reasons to oppose Common Core. In many cases, it stretched the truth.

So, as a conservative parent and supporter of Common Core, the question I raise to those who oppose it is: then what? What are your ideas to close the learning gap and make our state and our nation’s high school diplomas have real value? Instead of attacking sensible standards, show me how you plan to help students be college and career ready.

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BY Special to NextSteps


Wendy, I suspected that you had sold out due to your change in attitude I observed at Tallahassee 2 years ago and for me, this confirms it. You claim that the privacy issues of a national database that contains virtually every known detail of a person’s life from birth to death including medical records, religion, personal and political beliefs and every little detail that they can use to control and allocate a federally controlled workforce and end goal of a global workforce. You claim to advocate for “CHOICE”????? This program is to be used to ELIMINATE choice except what the government decrees you are best suited for. If you have 1 ounce of conscience and integrity remaining, simply Google “Hitler, the punch card , and the Holocaust”, and reply to me. Most importantly post your findings that WILL refute your opinion and support of “Common Core” which mirrors the system that Hitler used with the enthusiastic and blatant avaricious assistance of IBM founder Thomas Watson. Or do you aspire to join their ranks in history as a collaborator? I’ll even make it easy for you, here’s a link to just 1 of many results for that simple search: http://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com/ and a quote by Michael Hirsh of
“EXPLOSIVE AND STUNNING. An explosive book… Backed by exhaustive research, Black’s case is simple and stunning: that IBM facilitated the identification and roundup of millions of Jews during the 12 years of the Third Reich … Black’s evidence may be the most damning to appear yet against a purported corporate accomplice.
Michael Hirsh
I challenge you to step up and do the right thing, if not for yourself, for the sake and future of your own children if you even care about them anymore. I am truly disappointed in how far you have fallen from when I first met you.

“I guess that depends on whether we look at the achievement gap between the U.S. and other countries as a crisis – or another issue we kick down the road.”
This statement is more than a little disingenuous even with the sad state of the dumbing down of education in this country in that in many of the countries that are attributed to excel above the US: many countries remove those that either are behind or do not wish to learn from the school system and transferred into trade or apprentice or simply relegated to low skilled labor for the rest of their life with no second chances. Subtract the bottom 1/3 or 1/4 from the schools in this country and we would immediately be in the top tier. This is ultimately what will be accomplished with the Common Core program. The top correctly indoctrinated aptitude only, will be selected for top education to serve the collective and those in descending talent will be relegated to increasingly expendable worker drones. Mein Kamph is being revived with the intent to complete it where Hitler failed. If this is not the intent then why are intensive records-keeping mirroring what Hitler did as soon as he came into power????? They are compiling far more information than test scores.

The fact that you keep on bringing up that you are a conservative just confirms you are completely missing the point of Common Core. Common Core is not a partisan issue, both right and left have their hands dirty here. The “proud Conservative” badge you have as an illustration just makes your whole “conservative” story even less credible. You’re just trying too hard. Trying to make this a political discussion is just a smoke screen, and its a sad one.

Your statement “Higher standards will mean our next generation is better prepared for college or the workforce. That’s good for kids, parents, taxpayers and our country.” are just the normal talking points of the pro-CC crew. You claim they are “higher standards” but to-date NOBODY has been able to prove they are as they have not been tested at all before they were implemented. You just think this is a drama so I ask you to back up your words and post where this proof is or post a retraction of that statement. I have a funny feeling we won’t see either.

Rochester School District in NY fully implemented CCSS last year and they ended up with a 95% failure rate after the tests. Kentucky was one of the first to go full throttle on CCSS and their test results were terrible. Now you can blame the kids, you can blame the teachers but maybe these higher standards had something to do with it. Maybe a “conservative” view would be to actually take a step back and evaluate whether these standards are “good” for our kids.

Then what? Really? The fact that you are willing to blindly accept standards that have no empirical proof they work should disqualify you from asking that question as you haven’t even asked the questions that needed to be asked for our kids, parents, taxpayers as NONE of them had a say in this.

Wendy Howard

You are absolutely correct-this is a bi-partisan issue. The reason I was pointing out that I was conservative was because of the attacks coming from my own party. CCSS should only be about ensuring that the HS diplomas our children receive have real value.

Here are some comparisons to CCSS vs. State Standards that the Fordham Institute has published: http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/the-state-of-state-of-standards-and-the-common-core-in-2010.html. Here is a PPT showing how common core compares to international standards: http://www.achieve.org/CCSS-schmidt-research

Regarding the poor results of Rochester and Kentucky’s implementation of CCSS, I believe that change is hard. I also believe that that the negative backlash is the result of very poor messaging by the states as they adopted and implement CCSS. Parents should have had clear messaging that things will get rough, initially, as the bar is raised and kids are helped to reach higher and more meaningful levels of achievement. The further behind a state is on a national level, the tougher it will be. Last year my youngest was at one point failing math while following CCSS, however she eventually pulled it up and in looking at her work now, is doing great. When the expectations were raised, I worked with her teacher, and reinforced concepts at home.

My question to you is, “do you believe that the current status quo is working?” Based on the facts in my original Op-ed, I believe that it’s time to raise the bar; give teachers the tools that they need to help children succeed and move forward. This is not blindly accepting standards; I’ve done my homework. CCSS are the result of an initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It was created by the states for the states to ensure a HS diploma means the same thing from state to state – and has real value in signifying that our kids are truly prepared for college, or the workplace, or the military.

If the tests show that a percentage is not college or career ready by the time they graduate, then it’s our job to change that. If studies show that other countries continuously have stronger gains, then it’s in everyone’s best interest that our kids are successful and we close that gap.

High stakes testing will not work. It never has. Our model country, China is doing away with these tests just recently. The facts remain that these standards are not proven. This is a social experiment without parental consent. Local control has been taken away. The more government takes over education the worse it gets, check the data, I’m sure there is plenty of it. NCLB was a disaster, so CCSS is suppose to fix that, but the standards have changed, so what do they really mean in the end? Millions of dollars spent to prepare our children to fit in the box, take their places as directed for the global jobs of the future which the Dept. of Labor has never been very proficient at predicting. This has been tried before and failed at least twice in my lifetime. It saddens me that my grandchildren are being subjected to this. You support school choice? What does it matter if they are must teach the same script?

Since “little house on the prairie” days, we have had school education. It seems that when families were ‘families’ and people had morals, ethics and discipline, the education system worked. For all those who propose CCSS will fix education and make our students smart, do you suggest that those of us who focused, attended, and were taught traditionally, are dumb? The wheel is not broke. It does not need to be fixed or reinvented.

Your main argument that “our current system is broken, so we need CC” presents a false dilemma. Even if we accept your argument that our system is broken, and agree that our system needs to be fixed, there are hypothetical other ways we can fix our system other than by implementing Common Core. We need not agree to the first so-called solution that comes along. We have more than two choices. You have described a dilemma when there is none, and you have based your argument on that dilemma. In other words, your argument is based on false logic.

I am a teacher and in our district we spent the last two years learning about the standards and especially the math strategies that will help children learn math through conceptual understanding as opposed to rote memorization. Many of us tried these new strategies last year and were delighted with the outcome. We are 100% Common Core this year, and yes, our curriculum is much more rigorous than before. We are determined to stick with it though, because we believe that all children can learn math. As for the opinion that nothing was wrong with the way we taught math in the past, in our state 1 out of 3 students who enter community college have to take remedial math classes for no credit. Many of the parents of my students (who learned math the old way) confess on a regular basis that they could no longer help their children with math after 4th grade because they didn’t understand the math. I also believe that much of the housing disaster could have been avoided if people had simply done the math. These are just a few examples of how the old way really didn’t work for many of us. Our children are growing up in a world where information is at their fingertips, and the workforce is touched by global issues every day. The Common Core Standards acknowledge our responsibility to our children and to sit back and accept the status quo would be such a disservice to them. I am amazed at people who reject these higher standards and greater expectations.

Wendy Howard

Thank you Donna for your comments regarding CCSS. I’m delighted to hear the positive outcomes that you have seen with the children you teach. If you raise the bar, the children will learn. That doesn’t mean it will be easy.

It’s because of teachers like you that are up for the challenge that our next generation will be successful. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication; your parents are very blessed to have you teach their children. Thank you also for sharing your experiences and why you feel that a more rigorous standard is so important.

Donna, you are obviously a common core stooge repeating anonymous common core propaganda. You keep referencing “your” state and district and parroting very general and vague statistics —–yet you NEVER name “your state, district, the grade and classes you teach, or supply ANY references. IF you were a teacher you would know that if your post were a debate paper it would receive a failing grade. If the common core math is such an improvement then please explain why the ONLY math professor on the committee refused to endorse it and quit in disgust? The only truth I saw in your post was admitting the status quo needs to change. Unfortunately for your argument, change is only a good thing if it is an improvement instead of accelerating the already broken system of “no child advancing”, “race to the bottom”, and the “Florida Failed-CAT testing system”. They could not have done worse if they had deliberately incorporated ALL of the past failed “educational” experiments into 1 conglomeration of failure. It is well documented that 1930’s Germany was in economic and educational distress with a bleak future, but with the assistance of Thomas Watson, Adolph was able to turn That around. He started with overhauling the educational system with a program that very closely parallels, but is exceeded by “Common Core” in a reach that Hitler could aspire to only in his wildest dreams.
And Wendy, please address my concerns. Please don’t force me to humiliate you by posting the actual text to the references, and links to documentation in those references and links you posted in your article. You claim to have discredited the ten reasons against common core but I must have missed your research and documentation that accomplishes that. All I read in your article was parroted common core propaganda that is easily refuted with video posted to YOUTUBE straight from the horses mouth. Go ahead, please challenge me to supply sources. I dare you.

Hi Dan, thanks so much for reading and for commenting. I appreciate your strong views about Common Core, but I just want to reiterate that we’re big believers in respectful debate here. There is no place for insults and name calling. You clearly make your points without it.

Hi all, I just deleted a comment. I truly hate to be the common decency cop, but I’ve seen too many forums degenerate into nastiness. As I said before, we put high value on respectful debate and we’re going to do our best to stick to that script.

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