ALERT: COMMON CORE TASK FORCE LISTENING SESSIONS FORMED

From the Common Core Task Force Diocese of St. Augustine

Bishop Estévez has tasked a committee to study the Common Core State Standards and develop a position statement for the diocese concerning this issue. The committee would like to hear your comments and your ideas on this topic. You may find the standards at corestandards.org. This will be a true listening session and not a discussion or presentation. Due to time constraints and so that everyone has a chance to be heard, comments will be limited to three minutes. You are invited to attend any one of five listening sessions to be held at the following locations:

Monday, March 16 – 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church-Haut Hall, Orange Park
Monday, March 23 – 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Assumption Catholic Church-Kohls Hall, Jacksonville
Monday, April 20 – 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
St. Joseph Catholic Church – upstairs in the Cody Enrichment Center, Jacksonville
Saturday, April 25 – 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.
St. Paul Catholic Church-Family Life Center, Jacksonville Beach
Saturday, May 2 – 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.
St. Francis Catholic High School-Media Center

We look forward to hearing from you.

Please promote the listening sessions to your parishioners by including this announcement in your bulletin. For more details, email Deacon David Yazdiya, chair, at davidyazdiya@bishopsnyder.org.

FIRST GRADE COMMON CORE HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT

Here is a 1st grade homework assignment from a Catholic school child in Jacksonville, Florida.  The assignment is Common Core based.  The page contains 2 editorial mistakes that completely undermine any academic value:

1. The homework assignment includes a picture for the 2 + 2 problem which is illustrated by a depiction of 3 objects plus 2 objects.

2. There is a grammatical error at the bottom where the child is asked to draw one pink squares.

This is just one simple example of what Common Core aligned education is doing to our children.  It confuses our children, the entire Common Core plan is not to teach our children and the cost of the guidelines, curriculum and assessments are just robbing our wallets.

Homework assignment

 

 

Superior Catholic Schools Already Exceed Common Core Standards

Classroom (Salvatore Laporta : AP)

One of the biggest marketing disasters in modern times was the roll-out of “New Coke” back in 1985. Based on its fears of being overtaken by Pepsi and the misleading research of “the Pepsi challenge” (wherein consumers seemed to prefer the sweeter taste of Pepsi to Coke), Coke changed its classic formula to be more like Pepsi. Coke sales plummeted, and its loyal customers in a raucous revolt demanded a return to the Coke they loved. It turned out that the initial sweet taste of Pepsi that attracted customers on the first sip failed to satisfy over the course of the whole can. Coke, in humility (and some pride), returned to its Classic formula, and its sales experienced significant gains: income and customer loyalty skyrocketed. The 100 some Catholic dioceses around the country who became early adapters of the Common Core might want to emulate Coke’s humility (and pride) and begin to back away from the new and increasingly troubled Common Core Standards that are beginning to be implemented in 45 states.  Like Coke’s fear of losing ground to Pepsi when it seemed everyone was moving in the same direction, many Catholic school leaders may have attempted to get ahead of the Common Core in an effort to stay relevant and increase enrollment. Like Coke fearing the “Pepsi generation,” some Catholic leaders believe that, since “all” the textbooks, teacher training, and standardized testing is going Common Core,  Catholic schools must be ahead of the wave and proactively go Common Core as well.

These are not unreasonable steps, but they may have been premature. Now that the details and suffocating, standardizing and expensive bureaucracy of the Common Core are being unveiled in the government schools, citizens are asking, “What just happened?” States are beginning to take a second look at what they signed on to, in many cases without appropriate stakeholder input from legislatures and citizens. It may be prudent for Catholic school leaders to do the same. While it is encouraging that Catholic school leaders are not afraid to innovate and that they are responsive to the latest trends in education, it may be wise for Catholic schools to hit the pause button on the Common Core and consider what is becoming more evident regarding its potential weaknesses.

After all, as private schools we are not required to follow the government school standards; we can take our time and demand results from the never-tested, never-assessed Common Core. We know that what we are currently doing is successful. We know that our test scores significantly outperform government schools, even those government schools in states with the highest curriculum standards. Catholic school 8th graders have led public school 8th graders by double digit margins for the last 20 years on federal  NAEP reading and math tests. Our college preparation is outstanding with over 99% of our students graduating from high school and 84% going on to four year colleges (almost double the public school rate). So why are we changing? Why are we seeking to follow those whom we lead? Is our track record so bad that we need to seek the “new ways” of teaching math and English that the Standard writers insist upon? The Standards certainly present themselves as the greatest thing to hit education: “These Standards are not intended to be new names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step. It is time for states to work together to build on lessons learned from two decades of standards based reforms. It is time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children, but promises we intend to keep.” Very nice, but quoting that other successful marketing campaign from the 1980’s, we have the right (and the duty) to ask “Where’s the beef?”

At first glance, like that first taste of sweeter Pepsi, the Common Core with its claims to be “real world” oriented and “research based” seems compelling. But do we just take the Standards at their word because they said so? Or do we challenge the assumptions of what is untested and demand results before changing our own proven educational strategies and priorities? Case in point: one of the signature pieces of the Common Core is its insistence that all schools significantly increase informational texts (as opposed to literature) across the curriculum. Rather than basing their position on research and best practice, the Standards writers base their required percentages of each type of text on federal test description. Citing the fact that the main federal reading test (NAEP) on its 8th grade test has 45% of its questions based on literature and 55% of its questions based on informational texts, the Standards demand that all 8th grade classes should reflect the same percentages of those text types across the curriculum.

There are two problems here. First of all, the test results (not the question percentage structure they cite)reveal that students already do better reading informational texts than literary texts. As there is no NAEP test data to suggest the need for more focus on informational texts, this part of their argument fizzles. Second, research shows that even by 6th grade, school curricula is already 75% informational text based. This means that to follow the standards schools would actually need to decrease informational texts by 20%. So a marquee element of the Common Core English foams away into confusing contradiction. This is “the real” world of schools which the Standards writers missed but which they are now seeking to change based on bogus “research.” Critics of the Common Core note that neither of the two main Standards writers for English ever taught English in K-12 or in college, nor has either published significant research on curriculum or instruction.

Significant concerns also exist in the Common Core math curriculum. According to research, younger students (and novices in any subject) learn best by direct instruction, however the Common Core  moves toward constructivism (e.g., exploration based learning, group work, “fuzzy math” etc.) This is not only inefficient in younger grades but can lead to undue stress as little children are asked to accomplish tasks which are not suited for their level of development and limited expertise. Some scholars suggest that by late middle school, Common Core math skills are two years behind their top scoring international peers. Also, according to some experts, since the Common Core Standards do not specifically address upper level high school math, the program does not include specific guidance for classes necessary to get into selective colleges or science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors. For Catholic schools, a significant part of our appeal is the excellent college preparation that we offer for four-year colleges. The Common Core’s high school standards are too vague and weak to be of significant use to our high-octane efforts.

Until the Common Core Standards prove themselves and overcome the doubt and suspicion that currently surround them—even in the government school sector—we should stay the course, hold steady, and keep our focus as tried, tested, and true Catholic schools.  Let the Common Core, if it wants, reduce education to only college and career readiness. Catholic schools have always been about more. We have our proprietary formula in our pursuit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness; in our focus on human flourishing,  human excellence and on our eternal destinies as loved children of God. This is the equivalent to the beloved “Classic Coke” formula.  We have a loyal fan base and decades of real world data and test scores to back up our efforts. This is the product that our loyal constituents want. This is the product that Catholic schools were built to produce. No bishop or pastor opened a school solely for “college and career readiness,” but that is the sole guide for the Common Core.

Our students were made for so much more than this … and they know it. Orienting intellectual efforts toward a pursuit of the truth and providing young people with the skills to properly interrogate reality, exercising their full human freedom and potentiality, is what parents and students really seek. The careers and intellectual pursuits they also naturally want come predictably and successfully in tow of these other more lofty efforts. In our Catholic schools we have a unique opportunity to address those deeper realities and profound motivations head on—with passion, conviction, and joy. Coke may “add life,” but Catholic schools can add eternal life and pursue those timeless and eternal truths for which the human heart yearns and which our government schools are not equipped or charged to fully pursue. We can and must explore math, science, reading, and all subjects in ways the Common Core Standards could never even dream of. This is our competitive advantage, and it is not restricted to religion class or some scattered prayers. It is who we are. We need to focus on being intellectually alive—being “Catholic to the core.”

Catholic education is more powerful than any of us can realize! We have all heaven, all reality and the Creator of all reality behind us and pulling for us. Ironically, the Common Core may be the best thing that has happened to our school in decades.  It may encourage a new wave of enrollment as students flee its negative effects. Already in their early responses to the presence of the Common Core, diocesan school leaders are doing a better job than ever at articulating our Catholic identity and are seeking new and effective ways to increase that identity in our schools’ curriculums. Now that new and more concerning information regarding the Common Core is coming our way, there is no harm or foul in hitting the pause button or changing course. Early adoption of the Common Core was made in good faith, that same good faith justifies a pause now that we know more than in those early days. This change dynamic need not be a negative and could assist us to be  better Catholic schools: said Coke executives in reversing the adaptation of the New Coke attempt, “We love any retreat which has us running toward our customers with the product they love most” and “It revitalized the brand—and reattached customers to Coke.”  Let’s lean from Coke, and, while we are at it, let’s borrow something else:

“Catholic education, it’s the real thing.”

(Photo credit: Salvatore Laporta / AP)

Pope Francis Calling Out Common Core When Criticizing About “Guinea Pig” Education Programs

POPE FRANCIS CALLING OUT COMMON CORE WHEN CRITICIZING ABOUT "GUINEA PIG" EDUCATION PROGRAMS
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Not only has Pope Francis come out strong the past two weeks with his fearless stance against abortion – but, now, the pope has also begun focusing on health & human rights issues, as well as EDUCATION. And, I am talking about education in the United States.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Pope Francis talked about the right of children to a mother and a father, and the right of parents to determine their children’s moral education:

Now, this is the best news that I have heard since I began my personal fight against Common Core almost 10 months ago. Only because way back in October, myself and a group of adamant advocates against the “Curse of Common Core” from all over the country, wrote a powerful letter to each and every single Archbishop & Bishop in the United States, stating to them in a most prayerful & professional manner that “Common Core had no place in our Catholic schools because it was unconstitutional, unethical, unnecessary and unGODLY”… We also included that powerful letter from the “132 Catholic Scholars” who echoed our sentiments and truly laid it on the line. I honestly believe that those two things have made a huge difference in the way the Catholic schools are now questioning Common Core. The Holy Spirit is now working full-time and with Pentecost Sunday (my all-time favorite Feast Day), only “55″ days away – we know that something powerful is bound to happen between now and June 8th…

We know for a fact that many of these Bishops who received our letter were probably caught by surprise at what they learned from us. In all honesty, I believe that the good majority of them had no idea that Common Core was part of the intrinsic evils that attack our society daily in a fierce manner – embracing abortion, same sex marriage and all sorts of liberal, sexual & political views. And, it still behooves me how the most powerful institution in the world decided to implement this corrupt and unproven, government-instituted education standards without even knowing what Common Core is. Across the board, all Catholic schools decided to implement Common Core into their school curriculum without knowing what the future consequences are going to be. They simply put the buggy before the horse – and that horse is bucking something awful right now…

Friends: I went to every single Catholic source in our country to get to the bottom of this – from the top (the USCCB in D.C. to the FCCB in Tallahassee to our local Dioceses in Florida) – and as GOD as my witness on this Holiest of all weeks in the Catholic calendar – way back on August 15th, 2013 – to my recollection, nobody at any of these levels really knew what is truly behind Common Core. They only knew a tiny bit about it. Only the tip of the iceberg, with no idea what lurked below. A Titanic mistake. Not one of them was aware of the face, funding and foundation of it all – as in the “Pro-Abortion” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the “abortion giant”, Planned Parenthood; the ever-radical United Nations; the sneaky agenda of Agenda 21; and GOD only knows how many crooked politicians and school leaders who were involved in “sneaking this socialist disease” into our beloved schools. A stealth operation, with the patient not ever knowing what the surgeon was doing behind his back.

It all started way back in January of 2002 with President George W. Bush signing on to “No Child Left Behind”. Seven years later, it evolved into “Race to the Top” with the ever-exuberant President Obama and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, signing on the dotted line on July 24th, 2009. And, as of June 1st of this year, all monies from these grants will be depleted – so every state will be on their own. Needless to say, these 45 states are stuck with the “Curse of Common Core”. A magic trick right before our very own eyes by a “magician in the White House who cannot get booed or impeached, no matter how bad or evil his tricks are”. Folks, this was NOT “Voluntary”. Those 45 states that “inherited” Common Core did NOT sign up for Common Core! Let’s get that straight right now. They signed up for these two other now-defunct programs. What they got was this fiasco of Common Core – which is the “sloppy seconds” of these two programs. I would go as far as betting my life today that if each and every one of those 45 states was asked if they would “voluntarily” sign up for Common Core today – that at least “40″ of them would tell Common Core to take a hike…They would want no part of it! The cat is out of the bag and I just pray that it does not have “9 lives”. Let’s finally put this educational fiasco to rest.

Bottom Line: Over the past 10 months, we caring & devout activists have literally educated our own educators. These prominent educators may have the degrees, but we know the water temperature better. And, there is nothing wrong with sharing the Truth. As long as there is education & communication going on – we must put our pride and egos away and do what’s best for our schools, our churches, our communities, our country and our beloved children. We have kept this all in prayer from Day I as I cannot tell you how many rosaries we have prayed at our “America’s Finest Hour” every Tuesday evening since August 1st at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius for our school leaders, superintendents, church leaders and Bishops. Countless prayers for every single Archbishop & Bishop in our country.

So, let’s all finally come to our senses; put our differences away; keep it all in prayer; and see what Pope Francis is going to come up with between now and Pentecost Sunday, since he is now focusing more on “education across the board”. He has made it a point to look into this “experimenting with our beloved children” educational approach much closer that pretty much spells out Common Core, as that is essentially what Common Core is – an unproven experiment. I have a strong feeling that although he may not know exactly what Common Core is and he may not use that term – our Holy Father knows what good education is. And, better yet, he knows what GOD education is. Now, it’s up to our Catholic school leaders to follow his courageous lead and follow the Catholic Church teachings, and focus on the Almighty Father as opposed to the Almighty Dollar – and “reverse the curse” as soon as possible.

As I have said from day one – we are all in this struggle “Twogether” not only for the greater good – but, for the GREATER GOD…And, Father knows best…He’s our best teacher.

e GREATER GOD…And, Father knows best…He’s our best teacher.

WE NEED MORE PETITIONS SENT, PLEASE LET YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNOW ABOUT THE PETITION

WHY CATHOLICS SHOULD OPPOSE THE COMMON CORE

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Forty-five states and over 100 Catholic dioceses have adopted the national Common Core Standards for K-12 English Language Arts and math.  This happened quickly, without any debate.  Public and Catholic school parents did not have notice as to what was happening.  Very few state legislators, even those on education committees, knew what was happening.

So, what did all these states and dioceses sign up for, and why such a growing, passionate opposition from parents?

If you listen to the promise of the Common Core, there’s a lot that sounds good, albeit much that causes suspicion.  Private entities developed, and own, the Common Core.  In the public roll-out of their project, they issued a slew of slogans about the standards.  The Common Core initiative would be “state-led.”  The standards themselves would be “rigorous” “internationally benchmarked,” and “research- and evidence-based.”  Furthermore, “no state will see a decrease in the level of student expectations.”  One problem with all this is that this roll-out occurred before the standards had been written.  And, in a bid to get points in a massive federal grant competition, states signed onto the standards before the final draft was issued and without time to review the standards.

The developers and owners of the Common Core made these promises from the get-go, well before they had actually put the standards together.  Unfortunately, the reality of the Common Core fell well short of the promise and will result in drastic changes to English language arts and math curriculum.  By then, though, legions of politicians and education administrators had championed the Common Core.  They had painted themselves into a corner.

With respect to math, Common Core takes students only to an incomplete algebra II course.  One of the lead architects of the math standards, Jason Zimba, has admitted that Common Core prepares students for a nonselective community college, not a four-year university.  Likewise, James Milgram, professor emeritus of Stanford University and the Common Core Validation Committee’s only mathematician (as opposed to math-education professor), rejected the standards because he concluded that they would leave American students at least two years behind their counterparts in the highest-achieving nations by 8th grade.  Common Core replaces traditional axiomatic Euclidian geometry with transformational geometry, a method of teaching geometry that has failed everywhere in the world in which it has been implemented in K-12.  And there is much more to be said about Common Core’s math deficiencies.

With respect to English language arts, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, perhaps this country’s most respected authority on English standards, criticizes the Common Core as “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.”  Common Core greatly reduces the amount of classic fiction taught in ELA class in favor of informational texts.  In their Publishers’ Criteria memorandum, the chief drafters state that English language arts “programs and materials designed for them will need to increase substantially the amount of literary non-fiction they include…..the standards emphasize non-fiction that is built on informational text structures rather than literary non-fiction such as memoirs or biographies.”  It further sets forth as “Non-Negotiable Criteria for Alignment to CC” that “Grades 3-5 literacy programs shift the balance of texts and instructional time to 50% literature/50% informational.”  And it continues that grades 6-12 programs should “shift the balance of texts and instructional materials towards reading substantially more non-fiction.”

Why should Catholics be concerned about this diminution of classic literature? Not only because study of classic literature has been proven best at developing truly literate students, but also because it is through literature that students learn about good and evil, grief and joy, failure and triumph — about the nature of humanity itself. The Common Core takes no interest in such non-job-related concepts.

Moreover, prominent child psychiatrists and psychologists have heavily criticized the standards as being age-inappropriate for young children.   In that regard, Dr. Carla Horwitz of the Yale Child Study Center argues that “The Core Standards will cause suffering, not learning, for many, many young children.”

The philosophy of Common Core is antithetical to true Catholic education. It is a workforce-development scheme that treats the individual as human capital, to be shepherded where needed in aid of a centralized, corporatist economy.  Schools are factories where children are trained, and the teachers are their supervisors. The focus of this is to produce workers who have the “skills” to “compete in the 21st century global economy.”

That is far removed from the Catholic understanding of education. In an address to American Catholic educators in New Orleans, Blessed John Paul II emphasized that the goal of Catholic education is “transmitting the full truth concerning the human person, created in God’s image and called to life in Christ through the Holy Spirit.” Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, drew the contrast between this vision of education and the workforce-development model:

Unfortunately, far too many in government, business, the media, and even the educational establishment perceive education to be merely an instrument for the acquisition of information that will improve the chances of worldly success . . . . Such an impoverished vision of education is not Catholic.

Archbishop Miller specifically rejected the “skills and competencies” philosophy of education that is embodied in Common Core:

A Catholic school . . . cannot be a factory for the learning of various skills and competencies designed to fill the echelons of business and industry. . . . Education is not a commodity, even if Catholic schools equip their graduates with enviable skills.

Although Catholic education officials insist that they are “adapting” and not “adopting” the Common Core.  That is not possible.  One cannot teach more informational texts and simultaneously teach more classic literature.  One cannot teach fuzzy math while emphasizing the traditional standard algorithms.

A group of Catholic scholars recently sent a letter to every bishop, asking them to intercede to return to traditional Catholic education.  Parents, too, are rising.  They are forming groups like Catholics for Classical Education (which has a listing of many other networks across the country) and Louisiana Catholics for Excellence in Education, and Florida Catholics Against Common Core which were launched as an on-line petition to their bishops.  Catholics are looking to their bishops to reclaim control of Catholic education and to return to tradition and excellence.

You can learn more about the fight against Common Core at American Principles in Action and Truth in American Education.school

 

{Ed Note: Please welcome this post from Mr. Emmett McGroarty & Ms. Jane Robbins. Mr. McGroarty is the Director of Education at American Principles Project, a 501c(3) organization and Ms. Jane Robbins is an American Principles Project senior fellow.}

STANFORD UNIV STUDY: COMMON CORE IS BAD FOR THE BRAIN

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Sometime in elementary school, you quit counting your fingers and just know the answer. Now scientists have put youngsters into brain scanners to find out why, and watched how the brain reorganizes itself as kids learn math.

The take-home advice: Drilling your kids on simple addition and multiplication may pay off.

“Experience really does matter,” said Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.

Healthy children start making that switch between counting to what’s called fact retrieval when they’re 8 years old to 9 years old, when they’re still working on fundamental addition and subtraction. How well kids make that shift to memory-based problem-solving is known to predict their ultimate math achievement.

Those who fall behind “are impairing or slowing down their math learning later on,” Mann Koepke said.

But why do some kids make the transition easier than others?

To start finding out, Stanford University researchers first peeked into the brains of 28 children as they solved a series of simple addition problems inside a brain-scanning MRI machine.

No scribbling out the answer: The 7- to 9-year-olds saw a calculation – three plus four equals seven, for example – flash on a screen and pushed a button to say if the answer was right or wrong. Scientists recorded how quickly they responded and what regions of their brain became active as they did.

In a separate session, they also tested the kids face to face, watching if they moved their lips or counted on their fingers, for comparison with the brain data.

The children were tested twice, roughly a year apart. As the kids got older, their answers relied more on memory and became faster and more accurate, and it showed in the brain. There was less activity in the prefrontal and parietal regions associated with counting and more in the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, the researchers reported Sunday in Nature Neuroscience.

The hippocampus is sort of like a relay station where new memories come in – short-term working memory – and then can be sent elsewhere for longer-term storage and retrieval. Those hippocampal connections increased with the kids’ math performance.

“The stronger the connections, the greater each individual’s ability to retrieve facts from memory,” said Dr. Vinod Menon, a psychiatry professor at Stanford and the study’s senior author.

But that’s not the whole story.

Next, Menon’s team put 20 adolescents and 20 adults into the MRI machines and gave them the same simple addition problems. It turns out that adults don’t use their memory-crunching hippocampus in the same way. Instead of using a lot of effort, retrieving six plus four equals 10 from long-term storage was almost automatic, Menon said.

In other words, over time the brain became increasingly efficient at retrieving facts. Think of it like a bumpy, grassy field, NIH’s Mann Koepke explained. Walk over the same spot enough and a smooth, grass-free path forms, making it easier to get from start to end.

If your brain doesn’t have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.

“The study provides new evidence that this experience with math actually changes the hippocampal patterns, or the connections. They become more stable with skill development,” she said. “So learning your addition and multiplication tables and having them in rote memory helps.”

Quiz your child in different orders, she advised – nine times three and then 10 times nine – to make sure they really remember and didn’t have to think it through.

While the study focuses on math, Mann Koepke said cognitive development in general probably works the same way. After all, kids who match sounds to letters earlier learn to read faster.

Stanford’s Menon said the next step is to study what goes wrong with this system in children with math learning disabilities, so that scientists might try new strategies to help them learn.

132 Catholic Professors Pen Letter — DUMP COMMON CORE

132 Catholic Professors Pen Letter — DUMP COMMON CORE

132 Catholic Professors Pen Letter — DUMP COMMON CORE

In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.

This letter was sent individually to each Catholic bishop in the United States. 132 Catholic professors signed the letter.

October 16, 2013

Your Excellency:

We are Catholic scholars who have taught for years in America’s colleges and universities. Most of us have done so for decades. A few of us have completed our time in the classroom; we are professors “emeriti.” We have all tried throughout our careers to put our intellectual gifts at the service of Christ and His Church. Most of us are parents, too, who have seen to our children’s education, much of it in Catholic schools. We are all personally and professionally devoted to Catholic education in America.

For these reasons we take this extraordinary step of addressing each of America’s Catholic bishops about the “Common Core” national reform of K-12 schooling. Over one hundred dioceses and archdioceses have decided since 2010 to implement the Common Core. We believe that, notwithstanding the good intentions of those who made these decisions, Common Core was approved too hastily and with inadequate consideration of how it would change the character and curriculum of our nation’s Catholic schools. We believe that implementing Common Core would be a grave disservice to Catholic education in America.

In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.

Why – upon what evidence and reasoning – do we take such a decisive stand against a reform that so many Catholic educators have endorsed, or at least have acquiesced in?

In this brief letter we can only summarize our evidence and sketch our reasoning. We stand ready, however, to develop these brief points as you wish. We also invite you to view the video recording of a comprehensive conference critically examining Common Core, held at the University of Notre Dame on September 9, 2013. (For a copy of the video, please contact Professor Gerard Bradley at the address above.)

News reports each day show that a lively national debate about Common Core is upon us. The early rush to adopt Common Core has been displaced by sober second looks, and widespread regrets. Several states have decided to “pause” implementation.

Others have opted out of the testing consortia associated with Common Core. Prominent educators and political leaders have declared their opposition. The national momentum behind Common Core has, quite simply, stopped. A wave of reform which recently was thought to be inevitable now isn’t. Parents of K- 12 children are leading today’s resistance to the Common Core. A great number of these parents are Catholics whose children attend Catholic schools.

Much of today’s vigorous debate focuses upon particular standards in English and math. Supporters say that Common Core will “raise academic standards.” But we find persuasive the critiques of educational experts (such as James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, and Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita of education at the University of Arkansas) who have studied Common Core, and who judge it to be a step backwards. We endorse their judgment that this “reform” is really a radical shift in emphasis, goals, and expectations for K-12 education, with the result that Common Core-educated children will not be prepared to do authentic college work.

Even supporters of Common Core admit that it is geared to prepare children only for community-college-level studies. 

No doubt many of America’s Catholic children will study in community colleges. Some will not attend college at all. This is not by itself lamentable; it all depends upon the personal vocations of those children, and what they need to learn and do in order to carry out the unique set of good works entrusted to them by Jesus. But none of that means that our Catholic grade schools and high schools should give up on maximizing the intellectual potential of every student. And every student deserves to be prepared for a life of the imagination, of the spirit, and of a deep appreciation for beauty, goodness, truth, and faith.

The judgments of Stotsky and Milgram (among many others) are supported by a host of particulars. These particulars include when algebra is to be taught, whether advanced mathematics coursework should be taught in high school, the misalignment of writing and reading standards, and whether cursive writing is to be taught.

We do not write to you, however, to start an argument about particulars. At least, that is a discussion for another occasion and venue. We write to you instead because of what the particular deficiencies of Common Core reveal about the philosophy and the basic aims of the reform. We write to you because we think that this philosophy and these aims will undermine Catholic education, and dramatically diminish our children’s horizons.

Promoters of Common Core say that it is designed to make America’s children “college and career ready.” We instead judge Common Core to be a recipe for standardized workforce preparation. Common Core shortchanges the central goals of all sound education and surely those of Catholic education: to grow in the virtues necessary to know, love, and serve the Lord, to mature into a responsible, flourishing adult, and to contribute as a citizen to the process of responsible democratic self-government.

Common Core adopts a bottom-line, pragmatic approach to education. The heart of its philosophy is, as far as we can see, that it is a waste of resources to “over-educate” people. The basic goal of K-12 schools is to provide everyone with a modest skill set; after that, people can specialize in college – if they end up there. Truck-drivers do not need to know Huck Finn. Physicians have no use for the humanities. Only those destined to major in literature need to worry about Ulysses.

Perhaps a truck-driver needs no acquaintance with Paradise Lost to do his or her day’s work. But everyone is better off knowing Shakespeare and Euclidean geometry, and everyone is capable of it. Everyone bears the responsibility of growing in wisdom and grace and in deliberating with fellow-citizens about how we should all live together. A sound education helps each of us to do so.

The sad facts about Common Core are most visible in its reduction in the study of classic, narrative fiction in favor of “informational texts.” This is a dramatic change. It is contrary to tradition and academic studies on reading and human formation. Proponents of Common Core do not disguise their intention to transform “literacy” into a “critical” skill set, at the expense of sustained and heartfelt encounters with great works of literature.

Professor Stotsky was the chief architect of the universally-praised Massachusetts English language arts standards, which contributed greatly to that state’s educational success. She describes Common Core as an incubator of “empty skill sets . . . [that] weaken the basis of literary and cultural knowledge needed for authentic college coursework.” Rather than explore the creativity of man, the great lessons of life, tragedy, love, good and evil, the rich textures of history that underlie great works of fiction, and the tales of self-sacrifice and mercy in the works of the great writers that have shaped our cultural literacy over the centuries, Common Core reduces reading to a servile activity.

Professor Anthony Esolen, now at Providence College, has taught literature and poetry to college students for two decades. He provided testimony to a South Carolina legislative committee on the Common Core, lamenting its “cavalier contempt for great works of human art and thought, in literary form.” He further declared: “We are not programming machines. We are teaching children. We are not producing functionaries, factory-like. We are to be forming the minds and hearts of men and women.”

Thus far Common Core standards have been published for mathematics and English language arts. Related science standards have been recently released by Achieve, Inc. History standards have also been prepared by another organization. No diocese (for that matter, no state) is bound to implement these standards just by dint of having signed onto Common Core’s English and math standards. We nonetheless believe that the same financial inducements, political pressure, and misguided reforming zeal that rushed those standards towards acceptance will conspire to make acceptance of the history and science standards equally speedy – and unreflective and unfortunate.

These new standards will very likely lower expectations for students, just as the Common Core math and English standards have done. More important, however, is the likelihood that they will promote the prevailing philosophical orthodoxies in those disciplines. In science, the new standards are likely to take for granted, and inculcate students into a materialist metaphysics that is incompatible with, the spiritual realities –soul, conceptual thought, values, free choice, God– which Catholic faith presupposes. We fear, too, that the history standards will promote the easy moral relativism, tinged with a pervasive anti-religious bias, that is commonplace in collegiate history departments today.

Common Core is innocent of America’s Catholic schools’ rich tradition of helping to form children’s hearts and minds. In that tradition, education brings children to the Word of God. It provides students with a sound foundation of knowledge and sharpens their faculties of reason. It nurtures the child’s natural openness to truth and beauty, his moral goodness, and his longing for the infinite and happiness. It equips students to understand the laws of nature and to recognize the face of God in their fellow man. Education in this tradition forms men and women capable of discerning and pursuing their path in life and who stand ready to defend truth, their church, their families, and their country.

The history of Catholic education is rich in tradition and excellence. It embraces the academic inheritance of St. Anselm, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Blessed John Henry Newman. In contrast to such academic rigor, the Common Core standards lack an empirical evidentiary basis and have not been field-tested anywhere. Sadly, over one hundred Catholic dioceses have set aside our teaching tradition in favor of these secular standards.

America’s bishops have compiled a remarkable record of success directing Catholic education in America, perhaps most notably St. John Neumann and the Plenary Councils of Baltimore. Parents embrace that tradition and long for adherence to it – indeed, for its renaissance. That longing reflects itself in the growing Catholic homeschool and classical-education movements and, now, in the burgeoning desire among Catholic parents for their dioceses to reject the Common Core.

Because we believe that this moment in history again calls for the intercession of each bishop, we have been made bold to impose upon your time with our judgments of Common Core.

Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law c/o University of Notre Dame, The Law School
3156 Eck Hall of Law, PO Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556

 

Faithfully in Christ, we are:

Institutional Affiliations Are for Identification Purposes Only

Gerard Bradley
Professor of Law University of Notre Dame

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Princeton University

Anthony M. Esolen Professor of English Providence College

Anne Hendershott
Professor of Sociology
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Kevin Doak
Professor
Georgetown University

Joseph A. Varacalli
S.U.N.Y. Distinguished Service Professor Nassau Community College-S.U.N.Y.

Patrick McKinley Brennan
John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies
Villanova University School of Law

Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D.
Professor of Systematic Theology Detroit, MI

Duncan Stroik
Professor of Architecture University of Notre Dame

Thomas F. Farr
Director, Religious Freedom Project and Visiting Associate Professor Georgetown University

Matthew J. Franck, Ph.D.
Director, Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution
Witherspoon Institute

Ronald J. Rychlak
Butler Snow Lecturer and Professor of Law University of Mississippi, School of Law

V. Bradley Lewis
Associate Professor of Philosophy The Catholic University of America

Patrick J. Deneen
David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame

E. Christian Brugger, D.Phil.
J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Professor of Moral Theology
Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary, Denver

Kenneth L. Grasso
Professor of Political Science Texas State University

James Hitchcock Professor of History Saint Louis University

Maria Sophia Aguirre, Ph.D. Director of Economics Programs and Academic Chair
The Catholic University of America

Fr. Joseph Koterski SJ
President, Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Fordham University

Francis J. Beckwith
Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies
Baylor University

Thomas V. Svogun
Professor of Philosophy and Administration of Justice and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy
Salve Regina University

Scott W Hahn
Professor of Theology
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Eduardo J. Echeverria, Ph.D., S.T.L. Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology
Sacred Heart Major Seminary

Ryan J. Barilleaux, Ph.D.
Paul Rejai Professor of Political Science Miami University (Ohio)

Brian Simboli, Ph.D. Science Librarian Lehigh University

John A. Gueguen
Emeritus Professor, Political Philosophy Illinois State University

G. Alexander Ross
Institute for the Psychological Sciences

Suzanne Carpenter, Ph.D., R.N. Associate Professor of Nursing Retired

Patrick Lee
McAleer Professor of Bioethics Franciscan University of Steubenville

Peter J. Colosi, PhD
Associate Professor of Moral Theology St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

Dr. Robert Hunt
Professor of Political Science Kean University

Matthew Cuddeback, PhD Assistant Professor of Philosophy Providence College

Dr. Joseph H. Hagan President Emeritus Assumption College

John A. Cuddeback, PhD Professor of Philosophy Christendom College

Dr. Michael J. Healy
Professor and Chair of Philosophy Franciscan University of Steubenville

Thomas Hibbs
Dean of the Honors College Baylor University

Susan Orr Traffas Co-Director, Honors Program Benedictine College

Michael J. Behe
Professor of Biological Sciences Lehigh University

Thomas R. Rourke Professor of Politics Clarion University

Robert H Holden Professor, Dept. of History Old Dominion University

Philip J. Harold
Associate Dean, School of Education and Social Sciences
Robert Morris University

David T. Murphy, Ph.D.
Dept. of Modern & Classical Languages Saint Louis University

W. H. Marshner Professor of Theology Christendom College

David W. Fagerberg Associate Professor, Theology University of Notre Dame

Melissa Moschella
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Catholic University of America

Daniel J. Costello, Jr.
Bettex Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus
University of Notre Dame

Brian Scarnecchia, Associate Professor of Law Ave Maria School of Law

Thomas Behr
Assistant Professor of Comparative Cultural Studies
University of Houston

Bernard Dobranski
Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law Ave Maria School of Law

Daniel Philpott
Professor, Political Science and Peace Studies
University of Notre Dame

Anne Barbeau Gardiner
Professor emerita, Dept of English John Jay College, CUNY

C.C. Pecknold
Assistant Professor of Theology The Catholic University of America

Anthony Low
Professor Emeritus of English New York University

Heather Voccola
Adjunct Professor of Church History Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Raymond F. Hain, PhD
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Providence College

Catherine Abbott Professor of Mathematics Keuka College

Thérèse Bonin
Associate Professor of Philosophy Duquesne University

Dr. Francis P. Kessler Prof. Political Science Benedictine College

Christopher Wolfe
Co-Director, Thomas International Center Emeritus Professor, Marquette University

Carson Holloway
Associate Professor of Political Science University of Nebraska at Omaha

Stephen M. Krason, J.D., Ph.D. President
Society of Catholic Social Scientists

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis
Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law University of Notre Dame

Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., Professor of History University of Notre Dame

Stephen M. Barr Professor of Physics University of Delaware

D.C. Schindler
Associate Professor of Metaphysics and Anthropology
The John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family

Jeanne Heffernan Schindler
Senior Research Fellow
Center for Cultural and Pastoral Concerns

David L. Schindler
Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology Pontifical John Paul II Institute, Catholic University of America

Rev. Edward Krause, C.C.C. Professor of Social Sciences, Emeritus Gannon University

Christopher O. Tollefsen Professor of Philosophy University of South Carolina

Paige E. Hochschild
Assistant Professor of Theology Mount St. Mary’s University

Robert C. Jeffrey Professor of Government Wofford College

Rev. Anthony E. Giampietro, CSB Executive Vice President and Academic Dean
Saint Patrick’s Seminary & University

Dr. Roger Loucks Associate Prof. of Physics Alfred University

J. Daniel Hammond Professor of Economics Wake Forest University

Kenneth R. Hoffmann, Ph.D. Professor of Neurosurgery SUNY at Buffalo

Timothy T. O’Donnell, STD, KGCHS President Christendom College

Thomas W. Jodziewicz Department of History University of Dallas

Sr J. Sheila Galligan IHM Professor of Theology Immaculata University

Maura Hearden
Assistant Professor of Theology DeSales University

Robert Gorman
University Distinguished Professor of Political Science
Texas State University

Steven Justice
Professor of English
University of California, Berkeley and University of Mississippi

Carol Nevin (Sue) Abromaitis Professor of English
Loyola University Maryland

Dr. Sean Innerst
Theology Cycle Director,
St. John Vianney Theological Seminary

Robert A. Destro
Professor of Law & Director
The Catholic University of America

Richard Sherlock Prof. of Philosophy Utah State University

Adrian J. Reimers
Adjunct Assistant Professor in Philosophy University of Notre Dame

Dr. Jessica M. Murdoch
Assistant Professor of Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology
Villanova University

Mary Shivanandan, S.T.L., S.T.D. Professor of Theology Retired John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage & Family at the Catholic University of America

Alice M. Ramos Professor of Philosophy St. John’s University

Dennis J. Marshall, Ph.D. Professor of Theology Aquinas College

Dennis D. Martin
Associate Professor of Theology Loyola University Chicago

Janet E. Smith
Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics
Sacred Heart Major Seminary

Leonard J. Nelson,III Retired Professor of Law Samford University

Charles D. Presberg, PhD Associate Professor of Spanish University of Missouri-Columbia

Brian T. Kelly
Dean
Thomas Aquinas College

Michael F. McLean President
Thomas Aquinas College

Philip T. Crotty
Professor of Management (Emeritus) Northeastern University

James Matthew Wilson Assistant Professor of Literature Villanova University

R. E. Houser
Bishop Wendelin J. Nold Chair in Graduate Philosophy
University of St. Thomas (TX

Gary D. Glenn
Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University

Cynthia Toolin, Ph.D.
Professor of Dogmatic and Moral Theology Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Virginia L. Arbery, Ph. D. Associate Professor of Humanities Wyoming Catholic College

Maryanne M. Linkes, Esquire
Adjunct Professor
University of Pittsburgh & Community College of Allegheny County

James Likoudis, M.S.Ed. Education writer Montour Falls, NY 14865

Dr. Emil Berendt
Assistant Professor of Economics Mount St. Mary’s University

David F. Forte
Professor of Law Cleveland State University

Anthony W. Zumpetta, Ed.D.

Professor Emeritus

West Chester University (PA)

Thomas D. Watts
Professor Emeritus
University of Texas, Arlington

Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, PhD Assistant Professor of Economics Ave Maria University

Craig S. Lent
Freimann Professor of Electrical Engineering
University of Notre Dame

Christina Jeffrey, Ph.D.
Lecturer on the Foundations of American Government
Wofford College

Robert G Kennedy
Professor of Catholic Studies University of St Thomas (MN)

Holly Taylor Coolman
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Theology Providence College

Raymond F. Hain, PhD
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Providence College

David Whalen Provost
Hillsdale College

David M. Wagner
Professor of Law
Regent University School of Law

John G. Trapani, Jr., Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy Walsh University

Tina Holland, Ph.D. South Bend, Indiana

James F. Papillo, J.D., Ph.D
Former Vice President of Administrative Affairs and Associate Professor in the Humanities
Holy Apostles College and Seminary

Dr. J. Marianne Siegmund
Theo. Department and SCSS member University of Dallas

Dr. Daniel Hauser Professor of Theology University of St. Francis

Joshua Hochschild
Mount St. Mary’s University

William Edmund Fahey, Ph.D.
Fellow and President
The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

John C. McCarthy
Dean, School of Philosophy
The Catholic University of America

Christopher O. Blum Academic Dean Augustine Institute

Chiyuma Elliott
Assistant Professor of English and African- American Studies
University of Mississippi

Mark C. Henrie
Senior V.P., Chief Academic Officer Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Jeffrey Tranzillo, Ph.D. Professor, Systematic Theology

Craig Steven Titus, S.Th.D/Ph.D. Associate Professor
Director of Integrative Studies Institute of the Psychological Sciences

Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. Executive Director
Catholic Education Foundation

William W. Kirk
Vice President for Student Affairs and General Counsel
Ave Maria University

Curt H. Stiles, Ph.D. Professor of Business Policy Cameron School of Business University of North Carolina