When real teachers speak… Elected officials should listen

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach in Connecticut.  He also writes commentary pieces for CT News Junkie.  His pieces should be mandatory reading for every federal, state and local elected official in Connecticut.

In his latest column entitled, Already Feeling Squeezed As I Attempt to ‘Align’ With Common Core, Barth Keck provides a direct view into the challenges facing teachers and the chaos being created by the corporate education reform industry and their elected and appointed lackeys who are implementing their strategies.

There are the complexities and oddities of the Common Core Standards, some of which actually force Connecticut’s teachers to back-down and reduce the scope and sequence of Connecticut’s existing standards.

Then there is the rush to test child on those Common Core Standards despite the fact that sufficient Common Core Curricula has yet to be developed.

And now there is the unfair and flawed Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Field Test.

And the list goes on and on.

The whole education reform fiasco is demoralizing teachers and undermining Connecticut’s system of public education.

As Barth Keck observes;

Little did Elizabeth Natale know that her Hartford Courant opinion piece would not only go viral, but also set off a chain reaction that essentially put Connecticut’s education reform on hold.

Natale’s op-ed appeared on Jan. 17 under the headline “Why I Want To Give Up Teaching.” The piece has been read by nearly 500,000 viewers, according to the Courant.

Ten days after Natale’s op-ed appeared, veteran Connecticut politico and blogger Jonathan Pelto published a comprehensive post summarizing the reactions of politicians and pundits.

The real bomb was dropped on Jan. 29 when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy effectively put the brakes on education reform in Connecticut.

Shortly thereafter, Madison Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice pled with state legislators to “listen to the teachers, administrators, parents, and even the students, to make the necessary course corrections” to school reform.

In truth, the issue of education reform has been smoldering for a while. Connecticut, however, has been slow to react because most Nutmeggers — especially parents — had not truly contemplated the “Common Core” until Natale’s personal and lucid reflections brought CCSS to the forefront.

Veteran teacher Stan Karp has written perhaps the most comprehensive and informative article on the issues surrounding the Common Core State Standards, starting with the hasty implementation of its untested principles.

“These standards have never been fully implemented in real schools anywhere,” writes Karp. “They’re more or less abstract descriptions of academic abilities organized into sequences by people who have never taught at all or who have not taught this particular set of standards.”

As a high school English teacher for the past 23 years, I consider myself, well, experienced. But not even my own professional experience could prepare me — in one year’s time — for the voluminous standards which, under Connecticut’s plan, comprise 22.5 percent of my performance evaluation.

Take the English Language Arts Standards for 9th and 10th graders as an example. There are six “strands” such as “Reading: Literature” and “Reading: Informational Text.” Within each strand are standards, many of which have numerous sub-standards.

The strand of Writing, for instance, has four categories: Text Types and Purposes, Production and Distribution of Writing, Research to Build and Present Knowledge, and Range of Writing. This last category has just one standard, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10: “Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.”

All of the other categories in the Writing strand, meanwhile, have multiple standards. Text Types and Purposes alone has 19 standards and sub-standards, including CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1c : “Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.”

All told, there are 75 standards and sub-standards that I must teach my students to prepare them for the computerized Smarter Balanced test — the final details of which are still being worked out.


Please take the time to go read Barth Keck’s entire piece.  It can be found at the CT News Junkie at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_already_feeling_squeezed_as_i_attempt_to_align_with_common_core/

  • LutherW

    “Then there is the rush to test child against those Common Core Standards
    despite the fact that sufficient Common Core Curricula has yet to be

    What better way could there possibly be to all but guarantee scores will go up in the near future, so that success can be proclaimed.

    When I was drafted they showed us videos of recruits arriving in grubby clothes with a speaker saying “we were a motley crew”, transformed with their haircuts and new uniforms. Almost guaranteed since they sent us letters in advance telling us to wear old clothes to the induction since we would not need them after that.

    • jonpelto

      Perfectly said!