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Parent, teacher fear for creativity

Common Core is too top-down, instructor says

A local educator and parent have mixed opinions about whether Indiana should move forward with the adoption of the Common Core education standards.

The concept of the Common Core standards – such as having standards that include benchmarks on which teachers can base their instruction – sounds like a good idea at first, said Mike Schmid, an art teacher at Southwest Allen County’s Summit Middle School.

State officials decided to postpone the implementation of Common Core this year while a legislative study committee examined them. Indiana was among the first states to adopt the standards in 2010.

“The problem is, I see it being another top-down management technique,” Schmid said. “More of a one-size-fits-all. There is one set of standards with one set of best practices and all students will be taught the same things in the same way.”

And if the standards interfere with teachers’ ability to teach creatively and adapt to the needs of their individual classrooms, Common Core isn’t in the best interest of students or teachers, he added.

“Just as students learn different ways, teachers teach in different ways. If we can teach to our strengths, kids will learn better,” Schmid said.

Anne Duff, a Fort Wayne resident and mother of three children, said she began digging for information about Common Core after hearing that so many people were against it.

“I think their reasoning was kind of silly,” Duff said, explaining that many people think the standards aren’t rigorous enough or would share children’s information with agencies without parent approval. “I think the standards would be fine if there were no strings attached.”

Yet, there are strings, she said, like the costs of adding computers for online testing, bribes of grant money for high-achieving districts and the potential of limiting a teacher’s creativity.

For children like hers – two who are enrolled at Towles Intermediate School and one who is a freshman at Wayne New Tech Academy – adapting to new standards and testing midstream shouldn’t be a problem, she said.

“My kids are strong students, and I think they’ll be fine. But those kids who are already behind will just fall further and further behind,” Duff said.

As lawmakers review the standards, both Duff and Schmid agreed taking a look at how other states and countries have adapted their own standards could be helpful.

“Teachers in New York have to follow a scripted curriculum; … what teacher would ever want to do that? What’s great about teaching is that everybody has their own style,” said Duff, a former high school French teacher.

Schmid said he would encourage lawmakers to also look to countries such as Finland that offer teachers the autonomy to decide how they want to teach based on state curriculum.

“When we look at school districts worldwide that are succeeding, this approach, having teachers take the time to develop and set the curriculum, is closer to how they are doing it,” Schmid said. “Not the implementing a set of international standards that don’t take into account the needs of local communities.”

jcrothers@jg.net

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