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Open Letter to Dow CFO J. Donald Sheets on Common Core

Dear Mr. Sheets,

Thank you for publicly expressing your thoughts on the Common Core in your recent article, Common Core Standards are common sense.

All parents, teachers, and business leaders want children to succeed. But I believe the Common Core is NOT the avenue to success that many promise.

As a successful business leader, you know that before any decision a cost/benefit analysis should be done to make sure that the decision is sound. This was NOT done for the Common Core. In fact, the standards were released on June 2, 2010 and the Michigan State School Board adopted them on June 15, 2010. Why the rush? Is 13 days enough time to adequately evaluate and decide to make a fundamental change to Michigan’s education system?

More importantly, the Michigan Constitution requires the following of the State Board of Education…

§ 3 State board of education; duties.

Sec. 3.

Leadership and general supervision over all public education, including adult education and instructional programs in state institutions, except as to institutions of higher education granting baccalaureate degrees, is vested in a state board of education. It shall serve as the general planning and coordinating body for all public education, including higher education, and shall advise the legislature as to the financial requirements in connection therewith.

As a CFO, would you accept a major decision that fundamentally reforms the way Dow operates without seeing the financial requirements?

I have asked several members of the legislature if this has been and they all say that they did not receive anything from the MDE or the State School Board prior to the adoption of Common Core in 2010. If we are going to ask our children to adhere to a standard shouldn’t the MDE and the School Board adhere to the standard set out in the Michigan Constitution?

Are you aware that the Common Core standards are privately owned and copyrighted by the National Governors Association and the Chief Counsel of State School Officers? States cannot modify them because they don’t own them.

NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.

Amazing that PUBLIC school standards are now privately owned by a DC lobby group. How is that good for anyone? Shouldn’t Michigan’s public school standards be owned and governed by the State of Michigan?

Mr. Sheets in your editorial you also said, “The standards are not, as some have expressed, a curriculum – all decisions about what materials to use or how to teach are still made at the local level.”

You care correct that the Common Core is not a curriculum…yet.. It is currently only math and English Language Arts standards. Science and History are not part of this standard. Were they ignored or forgotten by the writers of Common Core? Not at all, but the proponents knew that the best way to impose a fundamental shift is to do it incrementally. So they chose math and English first; they will later add in science and history. And the curriculum for the Common Core Standard is coming.

Yes, despite what you have been told curriculum WILL be phased in over time. How do I know you may ask?

President of Achieve, Mike Cohen said in a press briefing last year that Achieve is,

“already working with three states–NY, RI, and MA to that have “won Race for the Top funds” and were allocating a portion of that to develop model curriculum and instructional materials aligned to the Common Core.”

“Model curriculum” that will like become a “common curricula” for states to “decide” to adopt.

Quoting from the State of Michigan FAQ on Common Core which also admits that “common curriculum” will be considered in the future,

11. Q: Do the CCSS represent national standards? Will they lead to a national curriculum and common national assessment?

A: The Common Core State Standards Initiative is being led by states, not by the U.S. Department of Education. The CCSS will allow for development of common assessments that may be adopted by states. Such common assessments may provide opportunities for evaluation of progress toward college and career readiness. Decisions about development and adoption of common curricula and assessments will continue to be left to state boards of education. Some states may decide to participate in the development and adoption of a common curriculum (definitions that go beyond standards and include units of instruction or required activities, problems, or readings). The CCSSI has developed standards which will be adopted by states and used as the framework for developing state-level curricula and assessments. Participation in the CCSSI does not require that states adopt a common curriculum or that they participate in one common assessment.

I’m sure Arne Duncan and Achieve will be right there helping the states “find” a reason to participate and adopt them just like they did with the Common Core State Standards and the related assessments. Local control is eroded and teachers become facilitators. Teachers will be told what to teach and the “high stakes” tests tied to teacher performance ensure that teachers do not deviate from the script.

Mr. Sheets the Common Core is more than just high standards. Is is high stakes reform that may lead to better workers for your company but leaves local school districts and parents with no control over their child’s education.

Education has now become about creating workers to fulfill the economic demands of the state not about educating children to fulfill their dreams in society..

Again looking at the Michigan Constitution as our standard, we learn what Michigan once believed as the purpose of public education.

Sec. 1. Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

The common core goal of college and career readiness for workforce development may suit the needs of Mr. Sheets and Dow, but the goal is too low for Michigan or any state.

The goal of public education should be to foster the love of learning for good citizenship and the betterment of mankind not learning how to make a living for a better workforce in the 21st Century.

You are a obviously a smart man, Mr. Sheets. You wouldn’t have gotten to where you were without wise counsel and listening to multiple sides of the story. I encourage you to contact me and my colleagues at Stop Common Core in Michigan and let’s talk about the other side of Common Core; the side Governor Snyder and other proponents usually leave out.

Sincerely,

Karen Braun

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