Parents and educators alike have taken exception to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS). As California and the United States seek ways to become more educationally competitive on a global scale, educators and people who are pushing the federally funded initiative have sought ways to package it in a manner that appears to benefit all. Yet most teachers say it does not.
Cal State Northridge’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education is hosting a speaker series titled “Education on the Edge.” This week, it is featuring Stanford University Professor of Education Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond. The series is focused on ways in which California’s educational system can improve, placing Common Core at the fore.
It is no surprise that California impacts the rest of the nation in many policy areas, including education. In the words of Dr. Hammond this past Thursday, “California is now becoming a model for the nation.” She highlighted certain key aspects of the Common Core program, which places specific emphasis on math and English skills. They include “reading complex texts closely; using evidence to justify ideas; engaging in mathematical practices that use mathematical reasoning and problem solving in application; and using mathematical skills across content areas and contexts.”
In her presentation to approximately 300 people, Dr. Hammond said Common Core would push more critical learning on youth by steering people away from “teaching kids how to memorize the terminology” and instead would get them “engaging in real life, real world problem solving.”
Breitbart News spoke with several educators who saw Common Core from different perspectives. While they all agreed that America needed to improve its standard of education in the more underprivileged parts of society (which is largely what Common Core’s appeal is) and that the program would help teachers be more organized in their curriculum, they also agreed on something else: the Common Core program will not benefit children with special needs; in fact, it will be detrimental to them.
Iris, a middle school Spanish-language teacher, told Breitbart, “I think [the program is] great in the sense that they interrelate with all subjects, so it helps [teachers] all stay on the same page. … We kind of help each other.”
However, when asked if she felt the Common Core program would help children with special needs, she replied, “I think it is more detrimental to them. … It definitely is.”
Iris explained that there was no special program within Common Core to cater to special needs children and told Breitbart News it was absolutely necessary that the program create one. “They’re wired differently, so we have to come up with something different for them.”
Donna Randall, who taught special education in Pennsylvania before moving to California, said, “I don’t believe in [Common Core], but I know about it. And you can quote me on that.” When pressed further, she said she believes the program does not appeal to special needs kids “because you have an array of disabilities that it doesn’t address.”
Breitbart News then asked Dr. Hammond if there would be a special curriculum within Common Core for children with disabilities. She answered:
No. There won’t be a special curriculum. But good teachers of children with disabilities know how to work with them along the learning progression, which is also in the Common Core standards. So you take the child, wherever they are, and then you use that as a road map to move them forward, rather than trying to use it to teach beyond or below where a child actually is.
Throughout the lecture, Dr. Hammond suggested that two of Common Core’s goals are to “return teaching to its central role as a high-status profession” and to “eliminate unnecessary paperwork and tests.” While the program would hold educators to a higher standard, it could prove to be either problematic or beneficial for students–depending on whether they are better at taking big tests or perform better academically when provided with a series of exams over the course of a school year.
Dr. Hammond ended the lecture with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a PowerPoint slide donning the title “Insisting on Quality Education as a Civil Right” was on display behind her. The quote stated:
On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
The federal government’s role will be central to the implementation of Common Core standards throughout the nation, and many are touting the program as “Obamacare for Education.”
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.