Christy Hooley’s Testimony to Education Committee

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Good Afternoon Chairman Teeters and Committee Members,

My name is Christy Hooley and I am a teacher, citizen and parent asking for your support of HB97.  I represent many parents who could not be here.  I am also representing educators across our state, whom have chosen not to publicize their opinion, due to fear of repercussions to their career.

A year ago I was teaching 6th graders at Monroe Intermediate School in Green River.  Back then, I was busy implementing Common Core into my Language Arts class, and attending professional development courses.  I was also receiving instruction from consultants outside of Wyoming on how to apply this training to the classroom.  What my students and colleagues didn’t know, was that I was also looking into questions and researching concerns  that came to me after attending a training given by the WDE on the ELA CC standards that previous summer.   I had first heard that there would be new standards just prior to the notice of the training being available for those interested.

During this training it was pointed out that Common Core State Standards would be national and would make my job as a teacher easier.  Children that would move out-of-state would come to my classroom having learned the same material, basically at the same speed, and in the same method that I would be using once CC was fully implemented.  I left the training trusting those who told me that CCSS would lead to internationally competitive learning and would give every child the gift of being career and college ready.  The majority of the training was focused on how to accomplish the biggest changes to the standards; the reduction of literature and an increased focus on informational texts, with a greater emphasis on writing.

In my research I found that less than 2% of students actually move state to state.  Why would w such sweeping changes for such a small percentage?  More importantly, I saw that this “making my job easier” could lead to teachers making assumptions about students, and result in less teaching to an individual child and their specific needs. I did not misinterpret this; I had several conversations with other teachers and instructional facilitators about this being a fix to a supposed “problem” with mobility of students.

I also found evidence that the college and career readiness that CC is promising is actually a minimal definition of college readiness.  THIS was NOT pointed out to me, and we all assumed it meant University level.  A key Common Core creator, Jason Zimba, said that the Common Core prepares students for non-selective colleges.  He said: “I think it’s a fair critique that it’s a minimal definition of college readiness… but not for the colleges most parents aspire to…   How is this more rigorous?

Yes, Wyoming standards needed improvement, but why would be accept mediocrity, when we have the resources to create them? Should we not have the HIGHEST standards instead?

There was never any field testing for Common Core standards; so this is a national experiment using virtually all children. Supporters never attempt to explain how education is supposedly improved by Common Core, nor show a pilot state or pilot classroom where Common Core had been successfully used. Beyond the many pleasant-sounding buzz words, such as,  “internationally benchmarked”,  “rigorous”,  “improves college and career readiness,”  “critical thinking skills”, or “21st Century learning.”   There is no documentation or   back up any of the claims that the standards are higher.   These are baseless advertising words.  The term “internationally benchmarked” has since been removed from their site, because these claims cannot be proven.

This is valuable learning time in their lives that I as a teacher and parent will not get back should this “experiment” fail. Upon this lack of evidence are we to build our children’s futures. There is no amendment process to remove or change the CCSS should Wyoming decide it is not working.   It can only be changed by those who wrote and copyrighted them.  It will not be those of us governed by them that make the changes.  We are expected to be content in the fact that we are allowed to add a tiny portion of 15%.  That portion we know will not be on a nationally created test meant to align to that which is already copyrighted.

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, an expert on ELA standards, served on the official Common Core validation committee and refused to sign off on the academic legitimacy of the Common Core said, As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA standards do not strengthen the high school curriculum. Nor can they reduce post-secondary remedial coursework in a legitimate way. As empty skill sets, Common Core’s ELA “college readinessstandards weaken the base of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework, decrease the capacity for analytical thinkingand completely muddle the development of writing skills.”

Reflecting on the reduction of literature and increased focus on information learning, I think of my own experience in high school as I prepared for college.  I wasn’t studying informational text in language classes.  I was reading the classics, I was learning to analyze and form my own opinions as I studied characters, themes, and struggles between good and evil.   I’m grateful I had two full years of classical studies. Given my experience, however, I worry:  Which books will have to be put aside to accomplish CCSS mandate of 70% informational reading by 12th grade, Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, Melville, or O’Connor?   Suggestions from the CCSS exemplars include scientific writings, political writings, and opinion pieces.  Suggestions for literature are controversial books, one such as “The Bluest Eye,” a story of a sexual predator who exploits a young woman.

I’ve been told local school districts would never allow those things to be taught in the curriculum they have control over.  However, they do not have control over the national test, and those national tests will drive the content of ALL the curriculum choices schools have.  How is that really having control?  As a teacher, I want to give my students the best chance to pass the end of the year test.  Would that include covering things that could potentially be on the test?  Of course it would!  Teachers want a test that is created by those who are closest to their students, not by a consortium of people outside the state, who know nothing about them and don’t represent Wyoming interests.  We already have the NAEP that gives Wyoming a comparison across the country.

Also, CCSS emphasis on writing across the curriculum is taking valuable time away from what research shows it best for kids.  When teachers really know their subject students flourish.  We are blessed in my district to have top-notch specialty teachers.  However, my daughter recently spent 3 days in her art class writing a paper explaining her artwork.  This was valuable time that should have been spent learning art from an expert.  The writing process is best taught by those who are experts at it. CC is causing districts to try to accomplish its supposed “rigor” by spreading it across the content areas.

I was never given the opportunity to discuss CCSS openly with my colleagues.  In fact, when I tried sharing my research and concerns during a staff meeting I was shut down, in front of my colleagues, by my administrator and told not to discuss it at school.  Those harboring similar concerns would only speak to me behind closed doors, via non school email or texts messages.  There were real tears shed by my colleagues and friends as they explained to me that they agreed with my research on CC but could not support me openly for fear of losing their position.  You must know that for every teacher that speaks in favor of Common Core, there are that many or more that are in fear and silent.

I must agree with Rep. Freeman’s assessment that teachers “want stability”, but disagree that this stability must come by giving away local control.  HB97 will allow for teachers to be given this stability with an increased time of review AND be allowed to participate in their creation and adjustments when that need arises.  As teachers we were never given this ability to be part of the process in the creation of these standards.  This bill allows teachers to continue on the course already set, until new standards are properly vetted through an improved process of adoption that will bring Wyoming top-notch standards, not the forced mediocrity of Common Core.

Please vote to give this voice back to teachers and support HB97.

Christy Hooley

Educator, Parent, Concerned Citizen

Green River

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