Education Letter to the Editor

‘Common Core’ Leaders: Contempt for Teachers?

October 26, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

The so-called Common Core national academic standards project has now released the names of about 85 people involved in this work as authors, “feedback” providers, and, most recently, “validators” (“New Standards Draft Offers More Details,” Sept. 30, 2009).

Many of the authors are employees of ACT Inc. and the College Board, two entities that primarily produce tests. Others work for Achieve Inc., a corporate entity created by Louis V. Gerstner Jr. to promote testing. Most of the rest of the people listed are academics, with university faculty appointments.

Of the more than 80 people named, there is one classroom teacher: Vern Williams, a math teacher at Longfellow Middle School in the Fairfax County, Va., public school system. Mr. Williams is a feedback provider.

What Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and his fellow Common Core leaders at the National Governors Association—and their biggest fan and supporter, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—display is a monumental contempt for the women and men who actually teach children and adolescents in our nation. They mouth the language of respect for teachers, but their actions reveal their true feelings.

The epistemological claim of Mr. Wilhoit and others is that the “experts” who have little or no phenomenological knowledge and wisdom about young people today are the ones who know best about what these young people should learn.

As an academic myself, I agree that scholars have a great deal to contribute to this endeavor. But as an academic who has never lost touch with teachers and classrooms and schools, I know that teachers possess a great deal of knowledge about their students, about learning, and about curriculum and standards that can only be known through the day-to-day experience of teaching.

I’d bet that many of the professors who have agreed to serve on this project as “feedbackers” and “validators” know this as well as I do. It’s a shame that they have chosen to collaborate with people such as Mr. Wilhoit, rather than insisting on the inclusion of significant numbers of classroom teachers in every phase of this project.

David Marshak

Bellingham, Wash.

A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2009 edition of Education Week as ‘Common Core’ Leaders: Contempt for Teachers?