The teacher, not the program or money, makes the difference

By John Rajcic

“The Common Core Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. The standards will bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other.” So it is said.

What is an excellent teacher going to do differently? What will the student be doing differently? Schools keep lowering the standards to meet the standards. I am not advocating adopting McGuffey’s Readers of more than a century ago, but I am amazed at what students were expected to know as they progressed through the grades.

The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was brought about by Sputnik in 1958. NDEA would give us a leap forward in science. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 forbade the establishment of a national curriculum. There would be equal access to education, high standards and “real” accountability. ESEA morphed into No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Apparently these very costly programs failed in some respect or are failing to meet their stated goals.

Who is accountable? So here comes the Common Core State Standards, even to “cure” a very “healthy” school. We are headed toward a national curriculum that presently exists in countries that have a different history, form of government and economic system than ours — countries where graduating students are less innovative and creative. Innovation and creativity are the keys to competitiveness.

Now also comes the new state school funding program LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) that purports among other things to give local school districts more control. How can a sitting board member have more control when the curriculum is dictated and we abide by an Education Code thicker than “War and Peace” that tells the local board what it can and can not do.

Districts will scramble to get massive funds available for realigning their curriculum even if it does not need realigning. Schools of education and publishers, as in prior federal and state programs, are ahead of the game. Houghton Miffilin and others have produced or are producing texts, computer programs and materials for the Common Core. They want some of that money also.

There will be a lot of Common Core discussions, but ultimately it will be what publisher’s materials and computer programs the school will buy! Also it is the fashionable thing to do and, if you are not up on the latest jargon, your word does not even count.

I am an agnostic about a lot of things in education but not the value of an excellent teacher. Ah! Herein lies the rub. Regardless of the program and government involvement or lack thereof, it is the teacher, not the program or funding level, that makes the significant difference.

John Rajcic, a Ramona resident, was elected to the Ramona Unified School District Board in November.

   
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