The common core standards movement seems to be common sense: Our schools should have similar standards, what students should know at each grade. The movement, however, is based on the false assumption that our schools are broken, that ineffective teaching is the problem and that rigorous standards and tests are necessary to improve things.
The mediocre performance of American students on international tests seems to show that our schools are doing poorly. But students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools rank among the best in the world on these tests, which means that teaching is not the problem. The problem is poverty. Our overall scores are unspectacular because so many American children live in poverty (23 percent, ranking us 34th out of 35 “economically advanced countries."
Poverty means inadequate nutrition and health care, and little access to books, all associated with lower school achievement. Addressing those needs will increase achievement and better the lives of millions of children.
How can we pay for this? Reduce testing. The common core, adopted by 45 states, demands an astonishing increase in testing, far more than needed and far more than the already excessive amount required by No Child Left Behind.
Greens in the Pioneer Valley have to acknowledge and address a shameful fact: Our communities and our schools are segregated. In 2010, the Harvard School of Public Health issued a report that identified the levels of segregation in schools across the United States. For Hispanic students, Springfield, Massachusetts, ranked second, meaning it had the second-most segregated schools in the country. For African-American students, the city ranked ninth. Quite simply, some of the most racially segregated schools in the United States of America are here in the Pioneer Valley. As a political party founded on the principles of social justice and equal opportunity, we have a duty to tackle this unconscionable state of affairs.