To the Editor:
In any profession, there are outstanding individuals who inspire others to greater heights. Teaching is no different in this regard, and we are proud to stand among our peers as Teachers of the Year in our states. We are united in our commitment to educate our students in a way that puts them on the road to success after graduation. And we mourn the loss of excellent teachers we see leaving our profession too soon because they feel their impact has lessened.
We are also united in our frustration about the maelstrom of misinformation on the Common Core State Standards that has become so pervasive as to be considered truth. Unfortunately, false statements on the common core have been perpetuated by some of our profession’s most respected teachers, such as Nancie Atwell, the winner of the first Global Teacher Prize, who recently discouraged today’s students from becoming tomorrow’s teachers.
We want to set the record straight by explaining what the common core is—and what it isn’t.
The common core is not a federal takeover of our schools, nor does it force teachers into a rigid model for classroom instruction, as Ms. Atwell’s comments suggest. In fact, under the common core, teachers have greater flexibility to design their classroom lessons—and can, for the first time, take advantage of the best practices from great teachers in other states.
As teachers, we are the experts on what happens in our classrooms. We know best how to structure lessons so that both high achievers and struggling learners can master concepts and apply their learning to real-life situations. The common core also gives educators the flexibility to adjust to students’ multiple learning styles while allowing those same students to progress at their own pace.
Moreover, the standards preserve and strengthen local control by ensuring that classroom teachers make the day-to-day decisions, and that longer-term curriculum planning is done at the district level.
As teachers, we want all of our students to achieve to their full potential. Yes, the common core creates a pathway to success. But it’s just the path. The steps on that path are taken by teachers and parents alike who bolster students through academic frustrations and celebrate their achievements.
We are proud to be teachers, proud of our profession, and proud to be helping students take strides on their path to becoming well-educated, successful adults.
This letter was written collectively and in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success, and signed by the following State Teachers of the Year, listed with their years of selection: Alison Grizzle, Alabama, 2014; Amanda McAdams, Arizona, 2011; Kristie Martorelli, Arizona, 2012; Beth Maloney, Arizona, 2014; John-David Bowman, Arizona, 2015; Ouida Newton, Arkansas, 2015; Elizabeth Miner, Colorado, 2014; Jemelleh Coes, Georgia, 2014; Jeff Baxter, Kansas, 2014; Melody Arabo, Michigan, 2015; Angie Miller, New Hampshire, 2011; Jeff Hinton, Nevada, 2014; James Ford, North Carolina, 2015; Lori Michalec, Ohio, 2015; Karen Vogelsang, Tennessee, 2015; Mike Funkhouser, West Virginia, 2013; Terry Kaldhusdal, Wisconsin, 2011; Amy Traynor, Wisconsin, 2013; Jane McMahon, Wisconsin, 2014; Diana Callope, Wisconsin, 2015; and Mick Wiest, Wyoming, 2014.
A version of this article appeared in the May 20, 2015 edition of Education Week as State Teachers of the Year Defend the Common Core