Published December 08, 2013
Some of the biggest critics of new lesson plans aligned with the national Common Core standards are the people charged with teaching them.
A growing number of teachers say the national standards, adopted by some 45 states, have combined with pressure to "teach to the test" to take all individuality out of their craft. Some teachers told FoxNews.com the new education approach is turning their lessons into little more than data-dispensing sessions, and they fear their jobs are being marginalized.
“Now teachers aren’t as unique,” said Michael Warren, a public school history teacher in New Jersey. “It means anyone can do it. It’s like taking something done by humans and having it done by a machine.”
Backers of the Common Core Standards Initiative, which was created at the behest of the nation's governors and has since been enthusiastically backed by the Obama administration, say it is critical to ensuring all of the nation's middle and high school students meet a baseline in math and English. But while Common Core is not itself a curriculum, but a set of standardized tests, private curriculum producers are marketing their materials as "Common Core-aligned." Critics of Common Core say establishment of a national standard is simply a backdoor way of nationalizing curriculum.
“The root of the problem with the Common Core initiative is that standards drive testing, which drives curriculum,” Glyn Wright, executive director of The Eagle Forum, a Washington-based watchdog group that has long campaigned against the new curriculum, told FoxNews.com. “The standards were created by private organizations in Washington, D.C., without input from teachers or parents and absent any kind of study or pilot test to prove its effectiveness.”
“In fact, the only mathematician and the only ELA expert on the validation committee refused to sign off on the standards because they are inadequate,” she added, “Yet, the standards have been copyrighted and cannot be changed, and this is resulting in a loss of local and state control.”
Parent groups have criticized Common Core, and there are efforts under way in several states to repeal participation. But the complaints from teachers are relatively new, and come as the Common Core-aligned teaching materials are being implemented for the first time in many districts.
In a recent Washington Post blog post, a Delaware public school educator penned an anonymous letter complaining that Common Core was taking the joy out of a profession she loved.
“Teaching used to be a fun job that I was deeply passionate about," the teacher wrote. "I used my own creativity, mixed with a healthy dose of perseverance, dedication and cheerleading to encourage my students, most labeled ‘special needs,’ to believe in their own abilities and self-worth.”
The teacher goes on to explain that despite strong performance reviews in the past, the Common Core standards have been counter-intuitive to her methods as her employers told her that her performance would be judged to how closely she adheres to the new standard.
"I was given a curriculum and told by my administration to teach it ‘word-for-word,’" the teacher wrote. "In a meeting with my administration, I was reprimanded with “Don’t forget, standards drive our instruction.”
Another New Jersey public school teacher who asked not to be named, said the rigid new instructions for teaching have left her and her colleagues feeling like "robots."
"I'm unable to do projects anymore because we have so much other stuff to do that is based on the Common Core," she told FoxNews.com. "All the teachers at my school, all we talk about is how we don't teach anymore and we feel like robots just doing what we are told to teach and can't have any creativity for the students to enjoy themselves."
Those in favor of the initiative say that many teachers' frustration may be due to an adjustment period as states adapt to Common Core-aligned curriculum.
“The Common Core is a framework,” Otha Thornton, president of the National Parent Teachers Association, told FoxNews.com. "We support local control and it’s up to the state school boards for implementation."
Sharon Necaise, a public school educator at West Feliciana High School, in St. Francisville, La., told FoxNews.com her experience with Common Core has been positive.
"This is the thing, [Common Core] brings a critical thinking and cognitive awareness component that will ensure our students and children are not robots," Nercaise said. "The Commoon Core State Standards are not one size fits all in their approach; students are not only getting the right answer but are articulating why that answer is right. That is why I support these standards…they are not political; they are about good teaching and student learning."