Don’t Make Education A Political Football

De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.
De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reprinted from SRQ Magazine

“We implore our fellow Republicans to judge the Common Core State Standards by what they are: academic standards, not curriculum and not a national mandate”— Sen. John Thrasher and four former chairs of the Republican Party of Florida.

Say the word FCAT to a student and watch them cringe at thought of that exam. Mention FCAT to a teacher and watch their level of anxiety heighten. The all-important FCAT. Oh where did we go wrong?

Taken every year during a student’s public education, FCAT scores are used to help determine the level of study a child will receive in reading, math, science and writing. And every other year, the scores will help determine if the child will be allowed to advance to the next grade level.

Sounds good, right?

We all know not everyone learns the same way. And not everyone is able to show what knowledge they have accumulated in a timed test. Test-taking is a skill in itself. That is why teachers work hard with students to help each one of them do well on this exam.

Criticism of the FCAT is attributed to the amount of time and emphasis placed on this exam during the school year with students spending countless hours in school and at home preparing for this test. How accurate can a test be if we spend so much time teaching our students how to take the test? And why do we do it? Maybe it’s because we have tied a teacher’s merit pay to the success of students’ FCAT scores, along with the school’s grade.

But that does not mean that standardized testing is the evil-doer it is made out to be. It just means the test should only be a part of a larger process.

That is where the Common Core Standard comes in.

It started at the university level, where educators demonstrated students graduating high school were not prepared for college. It was also noted a large educational gap existed from one student’s education to another. We were turning out students in Florida that could not compete with students from other parts of the country. And vice versa. But the answer did not lie in a standardized test, but in an unvarying level of education that should be granted to all students. The quality of education that our children receive should not be based on the socioeconomic status of one’s family or community. The Common Core Standard allows each student to stand on equal ground. It provides us with a consistent and clear understanding of our educational platforms.

Because I am reaching my word limit, let me state these facts:
1. Not a single person who is against the Common Core Standard is against college entrance exams like the SAT, PSAT, LSAT and the ACT.
2. The Common Core Standard is not a federal mandate. Each state can opt in or opt out. Florida opted in and is on its third year of implementation.
3. Private schools, religious schools, Catholic schools and homeschooling are not required to participate.
4. Google and Facebook conduct more data mining than our school system.

Don’t just read this article, find out for yourself. Talk to the teachers. Listen to what they have to say.

SRQ Daily Columnist Susan Nilon is the president of Florida Talk Radio and owner of WSRQ Radio. She hosts “The Nilon Report” on WSRQ Sarasota 1220AM/106.9FM weekdays 4pm-6pm

The Nilon Report— Sept. 5 broadcast on Common Core