In 2008 Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men, decided that he should take charge of education policy. He promoted a single set of standards to measure our children's achievements in school. Since then Gates has spent more than $200 million to advance this idea, called the "Common Core." Gov. Andrew Cuomo, since taking office in early 2011, has supported the use of Common Core in New York schools.
The idea of a shared, high standard sounds appealing. But in practice what Common Core means is that students and teachers are subject to a grueling regime of tests that the citizens and families of our state never really had the chance to discuss. In the words of education historian Diane Ravitch, the imposition of Bill Gates' Common Core has been "the closest thing to an educational coup in the history of the United States."
Common Core forces teachers to adhere to a narrow set of standards, rather than address the personal needs of students or foster their creativity. That's because states that have adopted the standards issue mandatory tests whose results are improperly used to grade a teacher's skill and even to determine if he or she keeps their job. These tests have created enormous and undue stress on students, and eroded real teaching and real learning. What's more, there's sound reason to question whether these standards even measure the right things or raise student achievement. No doubt, many teachers have found parts of the standards useful in their teaching, but there is a big difference between optional standards offered as support, and standards foisted on teachers regardless of students' needs.
Widespread outrage from teachers and parents has led Gov. Cuomo to tweak the rules around the implementation of the Common Core and call for a review of the rollout. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not addressed the real problem with Common Core.
She shares some solutions:
My principles are different. I went to a great public elementary school and high school in Vermont. My teachers were attentive because they had the time and support to see each child and teach us not only the basics, but also about creativity and civic responsibilities. Teachers and parents had a real say in defining and measuring our progress. After college, I worked as a special education teacher's aide in a rural public school, and I saw the hurdles to learning posed by emotional challenges at home. Top-down, highly regimented tests would not have worked, largely because it would have straight-jacketed teachers, instead of allowing them to respond to particular needs.
If I am elected governor, I will fight every day to make sure New York's children have the best schools in the country. I will immediately halt implementation of the Common Core. I believe the best path to high standards is to work more closely with teachers and parents, and with the Legislature and the Board of Regents. Where the problem is federal policy, I will lead a delegation of parents and educators to Washington to demand that federal officials stop dictating how we educate our own children.
As did the founding generation in America, I believe public education is the infrastructure of democracy. The best public education is made democratically, in the local community: when parents, teachers, and administrators work together to build and refine the education models and standards right for our children.
She has my support in the primary against Governor Andrew Cuomo.