325 E Walnut Ave
Orange, CA 92867
October 14, 2016
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
NW, Washington, DC 20500
Dear Future President of the United States of America,
I would first like to thank all the men and women who worked tirelessly in order to create the standards and the curriculum of the Common Core for grade school. It is not an easy task to recreate an inclusive educational program that is suitable for students in the US.
The reason I am writing you today is that there are critical shortcomings to the Common Core initiative when paired with the No Child Left Behind Act that ultimately prevent this program from reaching its goals. Congress has already passed better alternatives to the No Child Left Behind Act that will improve America’s education system. I hope the following reasoning can persuade you to provide funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which will significantly raise the quality of education in America.
There are six standards that make up the Common Core Standards mandated by the federal government on all states, which creators say everyone needs to master in order to succeed in the future. The dedication to this ideal is clear in the Common Core’s main website, which reads “with students, parents, and teachers all on the same page and working together toward shared goals, we can ensure that students make progress each year and graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college, career, and life.”
I fully agree with the creators of Common Core on this issue. If all teachers go off the same set of principles to teach, the likelihood of more students succeeding in life is higher because everyone stands on equal footing.
However the reality is that there is a disconnect between the way teachers teach students in different grade levels. When teachers use different methods in order to teach the same subject, students get confused and therefore fall behind. This leads teachers to try to get students to pass tests by memorization, instead of try to build on their past knowledge. So now students memorize information for a test and once that test is over they forget all about what they learned. They study in order to receive a passing grade, they don’t study because they truly want to learn. The six standard’s primary goal is to make students stop memorizing information and rather be able to critically think about problems. I agree with this goal, unfortunately the Common Core’s execution leads to the exact opposite.
Another major problem with the Common Core is that it forces students to learn similar subjects without giving them the opportunities to build on their strengths. So when students reach college and it’s time to pick a major they don’t know what to pick because they do not know what they are good at or truly like. This is exemplified by how the Common Core affected subjects that are not central to its standards. In the past six years, schools in New York have spent 84% less on art supplies and equipment according to an article written by the Huffington Post. Even important subjects like English are negatively affected by the Common Core. The English standards for the Common Core forces schools to replace about 70% of their traditional literature with non-fiction, non-literary type of documents (“Informational Texts”) according to the an article written by the TFP Student Action. Also, in 2011 a national survey was taken that showed that subjects like foreign language, art, and music funds were being drastically cut.
These two main issues, coupled with the No Child Left Behind Act have created a perfect storm of policies that hinder America’s education system. The No Child Left Behind Act rates both schools and teachers based on tests that follow the Common Core curriculum. The tests are extremely hard and take on average eight to ten hours to complete. “I think it’s kind of counterintuitive to students getting the big picture because they’re required to test so much,” said Michael Benezra, a legislative director for the Senate of Massachusetts. The tests have taken away the primary goal of the Common Core. “People have lost track of the fact that tests are just tests” and any changes in education that “lead with the test” need to be changed says Daniel Koretz a Harvard Graduate from the School of Education. How many students will think that all they need to do is pass this test, so why not memorize the information? Unfortunately we are still in an education system in which tests are the main way which teachers and schools receive funding, and this is responsible for rigid tests to be considered more valuable than true learning.
Many organizations of parents and educators support Common Core not because they think it is helping but because they think that it is the only option out there. This is not the case, which leads me back to the reason I wrote you today. The US needs to provide funding for ESSA, which was passed by Congress in December 2015. One of the primary differences between ESSA and Common Core or No Child Left Behind Act is that ESSA is giving the power back to the states and school districts instead of being a federally regulated system. ESSA lets the states choose the testing, teacher quality, and method of fixing failing schools. ESSA also allows the states to decide what requirements are needed for teachers to be able to teach, whether a Bachelor’s Degree in the subject they teach or just be monitored throughout the year. ESSA also does not allow the federal government to tell states what the standards are or what they should be. ESSA allows the states to pick their standards as long as it prepares their students for college. In total this is a lot better for children and corrects the inefficiencies of the No Child Left Behind Act by giving alternatives that provide flexibility and accountability to the state’s’ educational programs.
Another difference is the way that ESSA rates schools. Although the students need to take a yearly test, that test is not the primary factor for evaluating how the school is doing. Each state needs to pick at least one other indicator that shows if kids have the opportunity to learn. This can be whether the school offers advanced course work or has integrated technology into their curriculum. This puts less pressure on both the students and the teachers. The teachers will be able to take their classes in the direction that they want, making students more likely to really understand the information and not just memorize it. A new innovation in traditional testing practices, ESSA is allowing several states to try new kinds of tests, which will let students work together on tests and not a regular fill in the bulb test. This type of testing focuses on collaborative work, which is closer to the type of work students will have to do in their future workplace. Theoretically this evaluative method will therefore truly prepare students for success in a realistic way.
ESSA is the right step forwards and if we move that way we will see major improvement in education, where the Common Core Standards have not shown those improvements. People can not be afraid of change and sometimes we have to take a completely different route to see a change for the better. I hope you will consider adding funding to ESSA, as it is our best chance of improving the education system in America as it stands today.