Archive for November 29, 2014

Common Core straightened out

The American River Democrats welcomed two guests to our November meeting who spoke to us about the Common Core and what it means for our kids and teachers. They also cleared up some misconceptions and answered a lot of questions. Kelly Hillesland is a Teacher, and Carole Vargas is a Principal, both of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. They spoke on the history and background of Common Core, and cleared up some misconceptions about the program.

For example: Isn’t Common Core a liberal program shoved down our throats by the Obama administration? No – It grew out of a response to No Child Left Behind (Bush admin.) when it became clear that making each state meet their own standards meant some states had it much easier than others if their educational standards were already lower. A group of education leaders and business interests came up with a plan to even the playing field and study the best education systems and theories around the country and the world. It is totally voluntary for each state, but Race to the Top tied in with Common Core, and is supported by Obama and Education Secretary Duncan.

common core logo

Why does Common Core cover only English and Math? Aren’t the other subjects important? It may look like it only covers those two, but in reality the English standards cover most other subjects, like history, science, and specialized subjects, since reading and interpreting text is the key to learning. In social studies, students are encouraged to think like historians – to focus more on discovery and critical thinking than on lectures. In science the students should learn to think like a scientist and problem-solve rather than memorize a textbook.

Why is the English standard so focused on non-fiction now instead of learning great literature? That relates to the previous issue – it covers expositional and technical writing to help with courses outside of English. But literature is still of primary importance in English, and of course literature courses.

Carole Vargas is a Principal in the Folsom Cordova School District

Carole Vargas is a Principal in the Folsom Cordova School District

Why do so many teachers and students hate Common Core? Many love it, but it is a shift in teaching and learning, and if you are already familiar with the old way, change can be a challenge, and uncomfortable. But the hope is that everyone will come around, and just like any change, become part of the process and make it better! When they discover that math can be creative, and that being good at math can mean you are a thinker, not a calculator, it may make sense. Parents who learned the traditional way, and have trouble helping with homework may see their kids are leaping past them in understanding mathematics, and all their subjects.

How can I learn more about this?

The Common Core Website

Myths vs. facts

What is Common Core and why are people upset about it?

The American River Democrats will be focusing on Common Core at the November Meeting, to be held Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7 pm. Club members, guests, and anyone who wants to learn more about it and the objections that have been raised is encouraged to attend.

The idea behind Common Core, which is supported by President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan, is to establish a set of goals or benchmarks in math and English that students at each grade level should achieve. By having a common set of standards, students from different states, and even school districts, will be more likely to be equally prepared to score in college entrance exams and enter higher education with similar skills. American youth would also be encouraged to perform up to the higher levels most other developed nations already achieve.

But some of the concepts introduced with the common core are confusing, especially to kids already schooled in math, and parents trying to help them, who look at some of the methods as if they were written in ancient Greek.

Our guest speaker is a Folsom teacher who is very knowedgable about these issues and has a lot to share with us. Parents and concerned citizens can get a better idea of what is going on, and how they should encourage their school boards and elected officials on how to approach Common Core.

Join the American River Democrats Wednesday, November 19 to learn about these issues and ask questions of our guest speaker.


The America River Democrats November Meeting will be at Samurai Sushi, Wednesday, November 19, 12251 Folsom Bl, Rancho Cordova. We begin our gathering at 6:30 for social time and a chance to order food or drinks. The official meeting will begin at 7:00 pm.

Samurai Sushi is near the Hazel exit from the 50 freeway on Folsom Blvd.

Guests are always welcome!