Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

[Susan notes: You can see why my letter didn't make the cut:

Dear Editor,

Now that Frank Bruni ('Are Kids Too Coddled,' Nov. 24, 2013) has joined Friedman, Kristof, Nocera, Brooks, Keller, and even Krugman in exhibiting ignorance about what goes on in public schools in general and with the Common Core in particular, I wonder when the sports and obituary writers will step forward with their opinions.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re Are Kids Too Coddled, by Frank Bruni (column, Nov. 24):

The problem with Common Core is not coddled kids; it is high-stakes testing. And the anxiety that kids feel is not from their parents but rather from their teachers, who fear for their jobs.

We can have high academic standards without high anxiety. In Finland, which is the best performing education system in the world, the first high-stakes test that kids take is the high school matriculation exam, which they have between two and four years to prepare for "their choice: and can retake if they are not satisfied with the results. Kids are assessed continuously in class, and get feedback that urges them to do better, but it is not high stakes. Grades are played down.

If we want Common Core to succeed, we have to dial back the high-stakes testing, and test only sample populations every few years. Otherwise, what we are going to get is just more teaching to the test, squeezing out of the curriculum everything that is not on the test and undoing whatever value Common Core may have.

Cambridge, Mass., Nov. 24, 2013

The writer is a fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard and the author of "The Global Achievement Gap."

To the Editor:

As one of the "white suburban moms" whom Education Secretary Arne Duncan has so caustically waved off, I can emphatically state that I'm not upset because my child isn't "brilliant," nor have I raised him to be "coddled." I'm upset because the implementation of the Common Core in New York State has been an unmitigated disaster, which has resulted in wholly unnecessary stress and disruption in our classrooms.

Also, while I commend the goals of the Common Core standards, the approach seems to be that we must throw out everything that works and start anew, even in high-performing districts that send the vast majority of their students on to college. This one-size-fits-all mentality will end up costing school districts many dollars to implement, funds that we just don't have.

I fear that this grand experiment -- like so many others before it (remember No Child Left Behind?) -- will fail, leaving districts disrupted and in financial disarray, worse off than when we started.

Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., Nov. 24, 2013

To the Editor:

Frank Bruni defines Common Core as "a laudable set of guidelines that emphasize analytical thinking over rote memorization." There is little that is laudable about holding students to academic standards that are patently inappropriate. They require abstract thinking, multi-step solutions to math problems and detailed analysis of text before young minds are developmentally capable of such tasks.

The Common Core teaching materials have been riddled with errors and often available only weeks or months after the start of the school year. Is it coddling kids to expect that teachers receive well-written and accurate curriculums before implementation and testing?

New York State education officials expected a 30 percentage point drop in the number of students who would pass the Common Core assessments for third to eighth graders. Remarkably, their prediction was right on the money. An elementary and middle school test with a pass rate lower than that of the New York State Bar Exam is inherently unreasonable.

Mr. Bruni says that some aspects of school should be "relatively mirthless." A fourth grader who can't participate in music, art or recess because she now attends a remedial class as a result of a low score on a standardized test aligned to the Common Core can tell you all about "mirthless."

Centerport, N.Y., Nov. 24, 2013

The writer is a high school English teacher.

multiple authors

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.