Taking Bell’s comments to task

Published 6:11 pm Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Messenger recently ran a story covering Alabama State Board of Education Vice President Stephanie Bell’s recent visit and address to the Pike County Republican Women’s meeting delivering her views on the Common Core Standards for Education. As local practicing educators, we respectfully disagree with Bell’s statements that Common Core standards are equal to “No Child Left Behind on Steroids.” While Mrs. Bell said she did not support No Child Left Behind, a broader and much more intrusive federal mandate than Common Core, she obviously does not seem to understand the fundamental differences between the two initiatives and that Common Core is not “No Child Left Behind on Steroids.” No Child Left Behind, the good and the bad, is actually the biggest federal government “intrusion” into public education since the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) was passed in 1965.

First it should be noted that Alabama has actually adopted the Common Core / College and Career Ready Standards which include standards needed for success in a post high school world whether it be post-secondary education or a career path. This shift will allow a more effective curriculum as it takes into consideration that not all students are going to attend a post-secondary institution of learning and involves career ready principles. So in short, Alabama has actually taken the Common Core Standards and stepped them up a notch to better allow success for ALL students. Apparently this point was never made in Mrs. Bell’s address.

The second point to consider is that by having a Common Core throughout the nation, educational establishments will have much less of a problem with students moving in from other states. Our society most assuredly has more interstate transiency than ever before. As families move from state to state, their school aged children are all too often set up for failure, or at the very least face an uphill battle, as they must adjust to whatever learning objectives have been established in the particular area in which they have settled. By having a common set of standards, even with additions or adaptations as Alabama has done, we provide a more level playing field. Transitions become much smoother and the chances for success are greatly enhanced.

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As far as allowing teachers the freedom to teach as they see fit, that would not change. Alabama adopts new standards every six years. The Common Core was selected for the most recent updates in mathematics and English language arts. They only establish what must be taught, not how. This is not a change from the way things have been. The Alabama Course of Study does not currently dictate how a standard must be taught, simply that it must be taught. Common Core, or more correctly for our state, College and Career Ready Standards trainings that have already taken place have included preparation and exposure to various research based effective teaching practices; however, they have not established a “cookie-cutter” approach where all children in all systems must be taught in exactly the same manner.

Moreover, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, specific criteria guided the development of the standards. The criteria included clarity, consistency, more rigor, and an emphasis on higher order thinking skills to name a few. The latter is crucial to insure that students leave school with the ability to reason and think critically in order to succeed in today’s globally competitive society.

Finally, as the article concludes, Mrs. Bell states that the Common Core would dissuade potential educators from entering the field. Unfortunately, the state legislature’s refusal to identify stable funding for public education has already led to fewer opportunities to pursue careers in K-12 education. Unfortunately, there is little hope for improvement in the near future and that, in and of itself, has been more damaging than the Common Core could ever be.

Repealing the Common Core at this juncture would cause catastrophic damage as a multitude of resources have already been expended across Alabama.


Donnella Carter, Ph. D

Mark Head, Ed. D.