Politicized debate over Common Core Standards doesn’t help students

Opinion, The Miami Herald, February 3, 2014 -

The move to politicize education brings Florida to a crossroads. In 2010, strong bipartisan support from our statehouse moved to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), taking a challenging, but right step toward more focused, more rigorous standards for students. After attending a hearing on the standards, I saw that the conversation has unfortunately shifted away from what is best for children, turning into a highly politicized and polarized debate held primarily by people who often are not closest to teaching and learning. As a teacher for more than 20 years, and as a proud parent of two great kids who went to Florida’s public schools, I hear rhetoric about the CCSS that deeply concerns me. This should not be a political conversation; this is about teaching, learning and what children need to reach their potential as thinkers in a rapidly changing world. This is a conversation about opportunities in schools, not statehouses. By turning the CCSS into a political ping-pong game, we are ignoring the voices of teachers who have already invested tremendous time and effort implementing these standards and ignoring the voices of citizens, universities, and employers calling for college- and career-ready students. Most tragically, we are ignoring the voices of many parents, who have been begging our schools and policy makers to stop teaching to tests and start supporting students as thinkers. We can get this right, but it will take us working together. United with the belief that we can serve our students better, the move to adopt the Common Core has forged alliances between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, teachers unions and school districts, and garnered the support of scores of teachers and parents in a cooperative endeavor to improve education across our country. The standards keep us all focused on the same ultimate goal, while the important choices of curriculum and textbooks remain local decisions, made by educators that work with our children. The move to politicize the Common Core Standards is threatening to hold our education system hostage. To politicize this issue threatens a major loss to Florida’s children. Last summer, I worked with my colleagues to train teachers in the state on the Common Core. These 14,000 busy educators who attended the trainings took precious time to understand what the Common Core asks of teachers and students. Just like all those teachers who came together from different schools, grades and parts of the state, I hope we can do the same. Let’s move on, work together and focus on the future of our children. Doris Milano, a language-arts teacher at Boca Raton Community Middle School, is a recipient of the 2009 Foundation for Excellence in Education EXCEL Award.