A debate is raging in Huntsville after teachers at a public school there passed out fliers supporting Common Core standards, known in Alabama as College- and Career-Ready Standards. Opponents claim tax dollars were used for the fliers. The obvious question is whether teachers have any business wading into a political battle, especially if they are spending tax dollars to do so.
The problem with the debate is that the development of educational standards in K-12 schools should not be a political debate. It was not teachers who inserted themselves into a political debate, it was politicians who — not for the first time — inserted themselves into an educational issue about which they are woefully ignorant.
Alabama teachers have a unique understanding of Common Core not only because they are educators, but because they already use it. They have received training, and used last year in their classrooms, the Common Core standards in math. They have received training, and will begin using this year, the standards for reading and language arts.
If teachers were worried about themselves, they would oppose Common Core. It creates significant burdens for them. They have had to undergo training, much of it unpaid. Lesson plans that have served them well for years must be scratched, replaced with new ones that most have had to prepare on weekends and evenings.
Because the standards are more aggressive than those previously used in Alabama, they know it will take time for students to adjust. That means they will need to spend more one-on-one time with students who need extra help.
Many Republicans have become unhinged over the Common Core debate.
The Madison County Republican Party on Monday censured Mary Scott Hunter, a conservative Republican on the state Board of Education, because of her successful defense of Common Core. The party’s complaint, like almost all its recent complaints, is that Common Core is a devious plot by President Barack Obama to impose federal standards on Alabama. That’s nonsense.
The states developed the standards, which 46 have adopted. The only federal involvement is that the state Department of Education — realizing after the fact that Common Core was a positive development — made it one of numerous factors that benefited those states seeking federal “Race to the Top” grants to improve their systems. Another distinctly non-liberal factor that helps states obtain the grant is the development of charter schools.
Instead of projecting their Obamaphobia on every decision educators make, legislators of both parties should support the efforts of educators to improve outcomes for students.
As the teachers in Huntsville — many of whom are Republicans — understand, the methods by which we educate our children should not be a political issue. After many years of studying Common Core and one year of using it in the classroom, Alabama educators are convinced it will benefit their students. If Alabama politicians were sincere in their desire to improve public education, they would drop their petty politics and support a program that is working.