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Friday, January 31, 2014

And the (anti) beat goes on

The anti-Common Core march in Arkansas is on. Literally. A group of protesters to the new and deeper learning standards for students will gather at the Arkansas Capitol at 2 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 1).

We’re all for the Constitutional rights to free speech and the right to assemble, and therefore respect their rights to make their case in this fashion. But we feel called to exercise our First Amendment right as well and state again that First Class Communication firmly throws our support to the teaching of the Common Core.

We plan on being at the Capitol Saturday to hear what these Arkansas Against Common Core organizers have to say, but we’ll be armed with a few facts of our own. Here’s what we know for sure about Common Core in Arkansas:

  • State education leaders across the country – as well as governors both Republican & Democrat – warmly embraced the idea and strongly supported the development of the Common Core. Common Core has the support of Gov. Mike Beebe, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, the State Board of Education, the Arkansas Department of Education and many, many educators and citizens across the state.
  •  One of the early and loudest cheerleaders for the Common Core was Gene Wilhoit, then head of the Council of Chief State School Officers and at one time director of the Arkansas Department of Education. 
  • The Common Core student learning standards were developed by leading educators from the local, state and national levels. Common Core was not a top-down mandate.

  • The process involved studying the best state student learning standards at the time as well as SLEs being taught in nations that are leading the world in education achievement. Student learning standards in English and mathematics that would enable higher levels of learning by American students resulted.

  • States’ educators have been operating under student learning standards for years. In Arkansas, SLEs have been put together by large committees of educators in much the same way the Common Core standards were – referring to the learning standards from leading states like Massachusetts as well as cutting-edge education research in the subject area being addressed.

  • Arkansas student learning standards, always approved by the State Board of Education before being taught, have been recognized for their quality, mainly because they did encourage higher levels of thinking across all subjects.

  • The major complaint, especially from educators, about Arkansas student learning standards is that there are so darn many of them. It was hard to cover the broad scope of SLEs and still have time to teach well the more complex but most important concepts. (The Common Core, by the way, fixes that.)

So, it will be interesting to be at the Capitol on Saturday and hear what these “agginners” have to say. Our fear is that we’ll hear more in the way of scare tactics than facts. Either way, we’ll report back on Monday.

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