Lawmakers Hear From Anti-Common Core Teachers, Supporters Stress Misinformation Involved

Teacher Karen Wenning testifies in support of bill to repeal the Common Core. Photo coutresy of Andy Chow.
Teacher Karen Wenning testifies in support of bill to repeal the Common Core. Photo coutresy of Andy Chow.
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A panel of lawmakers have heard and received testimony from about 200 people regarding the effort to repeal the Common Core. Lawmakers said they still wanted to hear more from one particular group - teachers.

But while the hearing was set to begin after school hours they only took testimony from opponents of the standards.

Karen Wenning is an 8th Grade math teacher at Coldwater Middle School in Mercer County. She claims the standards are not age appropriate—and put too much burden on students.

“The Common Core is pushing Algebra I on these eighth graders that Coldwater Schools determined was not ready to take Algebra I,” she said.

The result—according to Wenning—is that students are moving forward without ensuring they know the basics such as percentages.

“The foundation of mathematics that these kids used to learn in middle school—that foundation isn’t going to be as strong anymore because they are starting high school topics and it’s too soon,” she said.

Vicki Brusky an intervention specialist from Lorain County, says—along with the higher standards—there’s also an over-reliance on testing.

“There’s a lot of stress on the teachers," said Brusky. "My colleagues are wonderful teachers, but when they have to perform because they’re going to be assessed, or they’re going to be in trouble, perhaps lose their job and then the principal is being assessed, the district’s being assessed, the kid is the one that loses. The student is the one that loses.”

Deciphering what’s true and what’s false is the big issue that stands in the middle of the Common Core debate.

For example, Greg Harris is with the education reform organization StudentsFirst, which is part of a coalition supporting the standards. Harris says that over-reliance on testing would be happening with or without the Common Core.

"A lot of the people who are frustrated with the Common Core are really frustrated about things that have nothing to do with Common Core," he said. "That’s something that in some ways these hearings are irresponsible because they’re perpetuating myths.”

As for the level of difficulty—Harris notes that some opponents of the Common Core have said the standards are too hard while others have claimed the standards are dumbed down.

He adds that many students who learned using the old set of standards ended up needing remedial courses in college.

“The kids who graduate and go on to college almost—a portion of them are not ready to for college," he said. "So that’s another impetus for things like Common Core standards why we need to set standards that can help kids be equipped to make academic transitions go on to college and graduate.”

The Common Core has been a political brushfire on several conservative blogs and shows. Many opponents—including the sponsors of the bill—claim the standards bring too much interference from the federal government. This is another contested thought since supporters argue that the standards were not created by the feds.

But Karen Wenning—the teacher in Coldwater—says she doesn’t care about that debate. She says she’s only focused on what’s happening in the classroom.

“It’s not political for me at all how I see it affecting my students," she said. "And it’s hurting them.”

Lawmakers say they expect a committee vote on the bill before Election Day.

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