Alabama senators passed an education bill that would eliminate the controversial Common Core State Standards.
But Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley says that would be a mistake.
Finley said, in part, “… The Huntsville area has a vast number of residents that move in from many other parts of the country, and it is crucial to have standards in place to make a smooth transition into our school system. The many companies, industries, and military want it, students need it, and parents expect it. Huge efforts were made to invest in the materials and training for our educators across the state to be able to teach these standards to our students…” (You can read Finley's entire statement at the end of this article.)
When Common Core came out a decade ago, most states adopted it. Major teachers unions claimed it would prepare students for their careers.
Six states have since dropped the federal standards. Now, Alabama is poised to follow suit.
When Common Core came to Alabama, it never really made a splash. Just ask Tracye Kirby. “I don’t like it,” Kirby told WAAY 31. We caught up with Kirby at a water park playing with her 2-year-old great-nephew Braxton.
Kirby has a daughter in high school. A common complaint about common core is that it discourages parental involvement. Because of new teaching techniques, sometimes trying to help with math homework just doesn’t add up.
“It’s very hard for us as parents to help our children,” Kirby explained. “They want our help. And when you tell them you can’t do it and you’ll have to ask your teachers, they’re very lost.”
“Common Core, depending on who you talk to, can mean many things," Mike Parsons told WAAY 31. He leads an effort called Save Alabama’s Values and Education.
“We try, best we can, to expose some of these concerns,” Parsons told us.
Parsons points out that a decade ago Alabama schools were performing better than they are now.
According to Education Week magazine, Alabama was 25th overall in “National Education Standing.”
“But, in 2010, we started to transform our educational system in Alabama as we adopted the standards,” he explained. By 2016, on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the state’s 8th grade math scores ranked 51st, behind Washington, D.C., and defense department schools.
“What I think people would want is Alabama improving their educational standards and the education students are getting and that is not happening,” Parsons said.
Alabama adopted the standards of Common Core. But, critics say the state department of education gave it a different name to avoid political backlash.
“This is misleading at best,” he said. “A lot of your educators will tell you we don’t have Common Core, we have Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.”
Parsons said that misses the point.
“We’re still using 100% Common Core standards,” he said.
Centralized control is what makes it rotten to the core, according to Parsons. Supporters argue the one-size-fits-all system standardizes school districts across the U.S. But, Parsons insists losing local control isn’t worth it.
He figures the lack of local focus is what’s dragging down our schools’ performance. Parsons says those national standards are molding our Alabama students and locking them in on specific jobs as early as 8th grade.
“We’re starting to transfer a tremendous amount of influence to the state and federal government to decide the career path of our children,” Parsons said.
Another problem for Parsons is privacy. A key component of Common Core is collecting a huge amount of data on students. Parents don’t get the chance to opt in or out.
“A lot of the data that’s being collecting on students really isn’t going away,” he said. “And a lot of our parents can’t envision how this data’s being used.”
Mike Parsons believes Common Core simply doesn’t work and takes too much control from local schools and parents. “It’s a socialist template anyway you go,” he told us. “It’s almost like education is starting to take over a big piece of parenting.”
Back at the water park, “Go back to what worked before,” Tracye Kirby said. “It wasn’t broken. Don’t fix it.” She’d like to see Alabama get rid of Common Core. “I liked the ‘old school’ method.”
WAAY 31 reached out to the Alabama Department of Education. But, we haven’t heard back.
We’re also planning a one-on-one interview with Huntsville school superintendent Christie Finley to hear more from her.
Here’s Finley’s entire statement to WAAY 31:
"The College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) provide a universal benchmark for our students that ensures they are receiving the same rigor as other students from across the country. CCRS are the backbone of student assessments, such as the ACT, a key element to help students in their goal of preparing for college. The Huntsville area has a vast number of residents that move in from many other parts of the country, and it is crucial to have standards in place to make a smooth transition into our school system. The many companies, industries, and military want it, students need it, and parents expect it. Huge efforts were made to invest in the materials and training for our educators across the state to be able to teach these standards to our students.
It is important to note that “standards” and “curriculum” are not the same. Standards are the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at a particular grade level. Our school district, just as any school district in Alabama, chooses the curriculum that is used in our classrooms. We all want to increase academic success, and that goal can only be achieved by improving, not discarding, the resources we have."