Senate Hearing… Our Testimony on Common Core… By Raz and Son

Senate Hearing

Olympia, Washington

April 2, 2015

1)  Part One of Senate Hearing

2)  Part Two of Senate Hearing

Raz and Son (Part One): Minute 21:57 – 30:49

Good Afternoon Ladies, Gentlemen and Senators. I am Raschelle Holland, currently an Instructional Mathematics Coach from Spokane, Washington and this is my 8 year old son.

Son: “Good Late Afternoon, Ladies, Gentlemen and Senators.”

I would like to thank those of you who are sitting here today, to give us, parents and educators, a voice, to tell our stories regarding Common Core and the impact it is having as it ripples through the walls of our schools and homes and into the lives of our children.

Son: “A Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”   Abraham Lincoln

I am one of those people living in the trenches everyday alongside incredible educators working in a 90% poverty school. I am a National Congressional Teacher Scholar and National Board Certified since 2001, one of the first 100 in the state, and have facilitated several through the process since. I have been awarded the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, the United States Senate Innovative Teacher Award, and the National Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award. I’ve attended University of Washington, Whitworth University, and achieved a Master’s Degree from Gonzaga University. (Go Zags!) I am endorsed in Mathematics, Special Education, Psychology, and Elementary Education.

And… most importantly, I have spent 25 years working in Title One, low income schools.

I have a heart for these children. They are smart and courageous and face situations unfathomable. I could spend more than my allotted time telling you the stories from the trenches, of children with no running water, children living in homeless shelters, children from refugee camps in Africa who don’t speak one word of English, children who check their back packs several times throughout the day after receiving meals for the weekend on Friday mornings.

I am here, this late afternoon, vouching and standing for every single teacher who give their heart and soul to these children every single day.

The SBA takes way longer than 8 hours. It does. Children begin the test at 9:05 and many are still working at 2:55 for the ELA Performance Task. The same is true for the Math Performance Task. Young children whose hands barely span the key board, typing their answers.   Then there is another day for the ELA multiple choice and short answer test, then another day for the Math multiple choice and short answer test. Add to the plate, computerized interim tests developed by Amplify, to practice for the SBAC, to see if they are on track for the SBAC, and often, 4-5 months of the computers are tied up in a school year, doing testing.

Carol Burris,  New York Principal of the Year in 2013 said,

“I do not believe that any of the players in this project are evil people trying to control the minds of kids.  Rather they are true believers with an ideological allegiance to untested curriculum. The Common Core has some features that are good and others that are awful.”

For me, the awful part is the one size fits all approach demanding all children meet the same learning goals and targets at the same exact time.  Our children are not robots or machines spewing forth correct information on the spot lickety split.

What do we hold most dear in our children?

What is it we hope for them as they grow into their potentials?

Will standardization be the answer?

Rigor? The new favorite word traveling around the education world.

RIGORRRRRRRRRRR!

I, for one, am tired of hearing that any of us who question the standards in any way do not believe in high standards for our students. This is a huge untruth. We believe in high standards for each individual student from their individual starting point.

Is more Rigor the answer?

Higher, Longer, Deeper, Harder, Broader, More, and then younger and younger?

Is this the answer? Is this how learning works?

Let’s take a moment to examine this. One summer day, when my son was two, we attended a neighborhood pool party. A mom was going on and on and on about how her two year old son knew all of his alphabet letters, could say each one in order, and now he was mastering the letter sounds. I inquired as to how this had occurred? She shared how every day when her son took his bath, how she had him place the bath letters across the tile in order and then point to each letter and say their names. I looked at my son giggling in the sun, and I was pretty sure he didn’t know one letter yet, nor did I care, at that time. I just wanted him to play.

Hmmmmm… how is my son doing today at 8?   I just had his parent teacher conference and he is reading nearly two grade levels above 2nd grade. The other little boy moved away. I’m curious. I wonder what his reading level is today? Did knowing his letters at two become a predictor as to what kind of reader he would become? Better than his peers?

Have you ever looked up the definition of Rigor?

Son:

 “Georgie Porgie, Puddin’ and Pie,

Took some tests that made him cry,

When the computers came on in May,

Georgie Porgie ran away.”

Welcome to Georgie Porgie’s “rigorous” world.

I went to my friend, Merriam Webster, and the word is defined as:

  • rigor: the difficult and unpleasant conditions or experiences that are associated with something
  • rigor: the quality or state of being very exact, careful, or strict

Full Definition of RIGOR

  1. a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment :  severity (2) :  the quality of being unyielding or inflexible :  strictness (3) :  severity of life :  austerity  b :  an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty
  2. a tremor caused by a chill
  3. a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially :extremity of cold
  4. strict precision : exactness <logical rigor>
  5. a : obsolete : rigidity, stiffness c :  rigor mortis
  6. b : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimuli

Are we raising the rung so high our children can walk right under it?

What are we doing to our children in the name of rigor?

Are we letting go of those things that are not measurable?

Creativity.  Curiosity.  Innovative.  Imagination. 

Let’s examine a few of these standards.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.3 Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

This is 2nd grade.  Draw a connection between a series of historical events.

Let’s look at a kindergarten math standard.

K.OA.3  Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g. by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or an equation.

I really don’t think there is any necessity for a five-year-old to use college level vocabulary to explain complex math terms when many still need to develop one-to-one correspondence. Of course, someone who supports common core would say that all they are doing is raising the bar. However, this is a bar that is twenty feet up and for most five year olds, impossible to master.

Here are the voices of teachers from Spokane:

“I don’t understand why any of these things are needing to be addressed. We know so much about stages of development…why are the ‘decision makers’ choosing to ignore what we know to be true and push forward with high stress, developmentally inappropriate standards…?  Completely baffling and a waste of everyone’s time. (Especially the children’s!!) You can buy an infant a two wheel bike and even set them on it every single day…they still will not ride it until they’ve learned everything that they need to learn first…until THEY are ready!! Seems so simple!!”

“They keep changing/raising the standard, but kids are essentially the same as they have always been. They are humans, not robots that can be reprogrammed at the whim of a given standard. It’s great, even important, to set and reach for high standards as long as we recognize that children develop at different rates because each one is a unique and precious creation that was never meant to fit into an idealistic matrix of rigid, time bound demands.”

Did these “Standard Setters” have a deep understanding of how our youngest learn? All considered, is anyone else pondering and reflecting upon the developmental appropriateness in our youngest children? The frontal cortex of the brain that is able to reason is not solidified until approximately 12 years old. Yes, classrooms in younger grades need exposure to higher order questioning, experiences, and thinking skills. However, this gives children the opportunity to grow their brains and ability to learn how to reason logically. To set standards of mastery, and to espouse that all children learn skills and concepts at the same exact time seem incredulous to me.

Do all babies walk by 6 months old?

Do all children say their first word in the same exact month?

Do all children learn to read at a DRA level of 4 by five years old?

To demand that all children learn skills and concepts at the same exact time and then to “test, test, test” in the early grades, and demand reasoning in performance in order to meet these standards, seems a far stretch and may very well be setting our children up for failure. This failure will not breed the love of learning or prepare them for their future paths.

How many years have we had in NCLB? Fourteen years? Isn’t this enough time to paint a pretty clear picture this standardized, one size fits all, standardized world…and the high stakes testing madness…

Does.   Not.    Work.

So… what’s our new solution?

Create yet another set of standards. More “rigorous” standards.

Spend billions more.

Allow testing companies to make huge profits (billions) off of our children, yet there seems to be no money to reduce class size or compensate the very people working in the trenches every single day with the future in their hands.

The individual state’s set of standards supposedly failed, so these National “Common” Standards are supposedly filled with magic bullets of “rigor”.  Rigor, the supposed cure all to every educational woe.

I respectfully disagree.

My son deserves more. 

My students deserve more. 

Our children deserve more. 

Children are meant to fly.

Diffferent Butterflies!

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