School superintendent posts letter on Common Core, warns everyone better get on board

Updated: 04/18/2014 4:37 PM
Created: 04/18/2014 10:33 AM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean

One local school superintendent is jumping into the public debate on Common Core and highlights statistics that should make parents sit up and pay attention.

Livonia Superintendent Matthew Cole titled his letter "Common Core -- Moving Forward Isn't Easy."

In the letter, Cole describes the debate over Common Core as "buzz" and writes "it's time for educators to refocus the discussion on what matters most - teaching and learning. We cannot allow the politics and protests to drive the conversation." The letter continues, "the reality lives in the day-to-day experiences of our students - both challenges and successes - NOT in the headlines and Facebook posts."

Friday afternoon, Cole spoke with us on camera. He said, “It always worries me when politics and social media, little tag lines, little twitter feeds, little buzzes, take over the conversation about education. The folks who really know what's going on are our teachers, kids, our parents our building administrators. They see the successes and challenges every single day.”

Why does Cole write the letter defending Common Core? He writes "most of us will admit that our students - all of our students - could do better, must do better. Only about three out of four students who enter high school graduate on time - if at all. Only about half of these graduates are ready for college or the world of work. The numbers are worse in our cities and for students with special learning needs. Even in high performing schools, we all know of kids who go to college, struggle, and drop out. The truth is we need to do better."

Cole's letter takes on the criticism of Common Core testing writing New York State "has always used a state-wide testing system to measure student performance across all schools so we can know how our students compare to other students in nearby schools and across the state."

The letter says “meaningful learning is occurring” in classrooms with Common Core. So do parents think the same, that Common Core is working? Cherie Wing has two daughters in school. She said, “I'm not really sure if I believe that. I think it’s too early to tell.”

The letter continues, "People talk about the unfair consequences of these 'high stakes' assessments. What are the implications for students? "Failing" is not a measure on state assessments in Grades 3- 8 – the level of proficiency in meeting standards is the measure. The student may not yet have mastered the grade-level standards, but that means they have room for growth. These assessment results are used by educators as feedback to better support a student's future growth AND adjust curriculum to better prepare students moving forward."

Cole ends the letter with, "Yes, change in stressful. So is dropping out of high school. So is not being able to get a good job. So is not getting into college or having to pay for extra "remedial" courses in college. We need to come together to focus our energies and resources on helping all students get better. Moving forward isn't easy - that's the truth."

Today he told us, "The reality is when you open up the Common Core standards and you look specifically at what they're asking a child in second grade third or fifth grade to do,  they're asking them the right thing to do."

And why does Cole truly believe Common Core is working? He says he goes into classrooms and sees students thinking more deeply about math and more critically about their English texts. He likes to quote an email he got from a mom. She wrote, “Has it been easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. It’s changing the way my daughter thinks and I love it.”

Read the full letter

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