Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
The Germantown School Board is currently debating a policy which will affect the quality of your child's education, whether they will get into a good college, and even the future price of your home. The Board is considering whether the district, if given the opportunity, will opt-out of the widely-accepted Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Last May, this blog looked at the Common Core standards in Wisconsin. These standards are rigorous, clear, and specific targets for the skills students should gain in the classroom. The standards have been adopted in 45 states. Local districts are building their curricula around those standards, selecting both the teaching materials and how they are presented.
Although Wisconsin school districts are well-along in implementation of Common Core, the state legislature has recently become involved in re-examining the standards. Bowing to political pressure from state Tea Party groups, Senate and House Common Core committees were formed to offer new statewide recommendations on CCSS. The groups recently held four public hearings across the state.
According to State Rep. Sondy Pope, 162 educators testified at the hearings. These teaching professionals, the people actually implementing Common Core, supported the standards by a 160-2 margin. On the other side of the hearings debate were Tea Party members, as well as some self-described experts, many of whom were paid travel expenses by the far-right John Birch Society.
The legislative group plans to issue CCSS recommendations by Christmas. Rep. Dean Knudson does not believe that the recommendations will include dumping the standards. However, Germantown Superintendent Jeff Holmes stated during the November 25 Germantown School Board meeting that he spoke with State Sen. Luther Olsen. Olsen intimated his belief that one of the recommendations would be to let local districts opt-out of the state standards.
In our May blog on the subject, we warned that the Germantown School board may well attempt to reject the standards in our own district, saying, “It also makes one wonder how the several self-described Tea Party members on the Germantown School Board feel about the CCSS and if they will attempt Board action to oppose the program. “
Well, the School Board is now making me appear downright clairvoyant. At the November 25 meeting, Board member Bruce Warnimont jumped the gun on the legislative recommendations and proposed that the district immediately cease implementation of the Common Core standards in Germantown Schools. (see video, starting at 47:00 mark) The move was seconded. After much discussion, the motion was tabled until the December 9th meeting.
At that next meeting, Superintendent Holmes will have information on the the district impact of Warnimont's motion to cease implementation of CCSS. The Board then plans to take action on the motion. Never mind that the legislature will probably not issue their CCSS recommendations by then. Never mind that such action would preempt a promised January public forum on CCSS.
Why does the political fringe reject Common Core? Certainly, it did not help that President Obama endorsed the standards. (“Iff'n Obama is fur it, then I'm ag'in it !”). Also, a whole set of myths, falsehoods, and fabrications have circulated around the standards in the far-right media. For example, some bloviators believe that the standards are a socialist plot to brainwash our children.
Although Common Core was not developed by the Government, many fringe CCSS “experts” think that it opens schools up to Federal control. Others have suggested that the plan is a plot to develop a secret database on all students. Even loonier are the myths that CCSS is a plot to introduce UN control and that bio-monitors will be hooked-up to our children in the classroom.
If Germantown Schools abandon the CCSS, our district's children will be at a disadvantage versus students from areas that follow the standards. Our children will end up with an inferior education. The skills developed through the CCSS build on previous lessons. Without that skill progression, our children will be behind when moving to another district or after graduation.
The SAT and ACT college aptitude tests are being aligned to the Common Core Standards. For any college-bound student, it is important to be as well prepared for these exams as possible. A district that rejects the standards will do its students a disservice.
Many Germantown residents moved here because of the schools. The state achievement exams are tailored to the Common Core. If our children under-perform on these, the desirability of Germantown as a place to move decreases. Property values will go down, sending the village into a downward spiral.
Any Germantown resident with a child or grandchild in school should be outraged that our Board is even considering an abandonment of the Common Core Standards. Anyone owning property and expecting that property to hold its value should be worried. Anyone who values a well-educated populace should be concerned.
Germantown Schools must ignore paranoid delusions by the political fringe and continue with implementation of the Common Core State Standards. It is the right thing to do.