Common Core Education Standards Baffle Public School Parents

May 7, 2014

Public school parent and teacher at Sierra Middle School in Las Cruces Michelle Valdez is concerned the new standards will mean the end of supplementary programs and subjects like art, science and music.
Credit Simon Thompson

A federal takeover of the schools, leftist indoctrination of the young and excessive standardized testing - These are some of the more contentious things being said about Common Core education standards. But some say a lack of understanding is driving this alarm.

Nancy Martinez has 3 kids attending Sierra High school in Las Cruces and says as a stay a home mom she is pretty involved in her children’s studies but say she know much about the Common Core.

Martinez is not alone. A Gallup poll released in April showed 53% of public school parents in states implementing Common Core know little to nothing about the standards.

With 3 kids between the ages of 12 and 19 Martinez says she noticed changes over the last 3 years as common core has been implemented. She says she not sure a curriculum that was designed nationally –is preparing her children here in New Mexico. 

“More learning, more of New Mexico ways of doing things, like there are more farm communities here“ she says.

The Las Cruces Public Schools put on a Common Core information session in April – to give parents the opportunity to address some of their concerns. New Mexico Public Education Policy Director Leighann Lenti spoke at the meeting and says common national standards will allow New Mexico to see how it is doing compared to other states and see where improvements can me made.

‘”All the kids have to be reading this book at this time” That’s not what the standards really are – they are really just goal post  - we’ve emphasized that teachers still have that flexibility to provide their students with the tools they need to get their’

Lenti says when the state signed on to the Common Core- New Mexico chose to adopt an additional 15% of its own standards and textbooks.

As both a parent and a teacher integrating Common Core into her classroom Michelle Valdez is more familiar with Common Core than most. She says though allowances may have been made for a New Mexico curriculum, officially the rigors of standardized testing mean it and supplemental subjects like science, art or music  are taking a back seat.

“There no time for that anymore because Right now there's a curriculum out that says- this  is what you need to teach- Cause this is what is going to be on the test”  she says.

But Lenti maintains the standards are flexible. She says the onus is on teachers to connect the common core to materials that best meet the specific needs of their own students.

“We don't actually expect to see a huge increase with testing and we have said very consistently that when you focus on good standards and instruction-  you see good outcomes for students on things like tests" she says.

With teacher evaluations based on student test scores and Common Core implementing even more rigorous standards Valdez is concerned.

"Students are missing out on opportunities because testing is driving instruction"

she says.

But Lenti says in long run standards will allow students to gain a deeper understanding and practical applications for critical concepts.  Attention to instruction is part of the adjustment to a different approach to learning.

Martinez says the implementation of the Common Core hasn't caused any major disturbances to her childrens studies.

“They do come calling complaint said there's too much hard work you know  but I think it's just a kid thing ” she says.

The New Mexico Public schools have been transitioning to Common Core for 3 years and are on track to be conducting the first standards based assessment by 2015.