Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Part two of our interview with Dr. Duke Pesta

Recently, Common Core expert Dr. Duke Pesta sat down to answer some questions with us. If you missed part one, click here to catch up. Given the stakes, you can't afford to not know what the federal government has in store for our children's classrooms.

Some Common Core proponents argue that Common Core isn’t a curriculum. It’s merely a set of basic standards that ensure students develop essential skills and a sufficient knowledge base. How would you response?


Yeah, that’s one of the great lies, one of the great deceptions of Common Core. They say it’s not a curriculum.

Technically, in the most technical sense of the term, that’s true. The standards are just guidelines. The problem is the national tests completely cover those standards. They currucularize them. The textbooks that are available for Common Core completely and utterly are 100 percent curriculum-driven by those standards. So it is a distinction without a difference. You can call them standards however you want, but they have completely become pedagogy and curriculum in the schools that use them, which is to say most public schools right now.

It seems as though Common Core accelerates the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Does this focus come at the expense of the humanities? And if so, what are the dangers?

It’s ironic. You keep hearing that these standards are more rigorous and that their focus is higher level, but that doesn’t really seem to be true. In English, for instance, they remove 50 percent of the literature content, the classical poetic, fictional accounts, the great Western and American classics. Those books that give kids a sense of our heritage, who we are, our cultural history and require increasing skill in terms of reading comprehension. And 50% of those texts are now replaced with informational texts, most of which are tendentious and political in nature and do nothing to stimulate growth in reading comprehension skills.

The other big problem with it is that every single study we have pretty much shows that kids learn to write after they learn to read very complicated texts. What Common Core does in the English courses is it de-emphasizes reading and elevates writing. So they end up doing more writing than reading, and that’s not a good way to teach kids how to write in a complicated way.

Does Common Core impact public schools only? Or should families with children in private schools be concerned as well? How about homeschooling families?

Private and homeschool [families] should be very worried about Common Core. Before the SAT and ACT went over to Common Core—which they’re in the process of doing—private school and home school kids did very, very well compared to public school kids on all the standardized tests. Those tests were basic knowledge tests. But now the ACT and SAT are moving over to Common Core, which means those kids who have had Common Core learning methods are going to do better on these tests than kids who haven’t been exposed to Common Core methodology, even though the non-Common Core kids may be much more advanced and much smarter ultimately in terms of what they know. And that’s probably going to be the case. The fact is that now the standardized tests are all tailored to Common Core.

This is the beginning of the way the federal government will say “Well look at how private and home school families are failing our kids. For the last 20 years, they’ve had higher scores, but ever since we incorporated this wonderful Common Core curriculum, home school and private schools have gone down by comparison. That’s going to be an excuse and a provocation to try to remove or limit home school or private schools in the future.

Finally, how can parents stand against Common Core?

Parents need to unite. As things stand right now, they are still for the moment the single most important voice in their kids’ education. The federal government is trying to change that. The federal government is trying to make the state responsible for your kids’ education in ways it’s never been before. So if parents are concerned about what and how their kids learn, this is a hill they need to take a stand on because Common Core will effectively succeed in separating parents from their kids when it comes to what and how your kids are taught.

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