Remove the gag order, free teachers!

June 4, 2013 12 Comments

Some on the left feel like they aren’t as effective as the right in fighting the Common Core Conflict. My belief, is that their most powerful weapon has the safety stuck on and it isn’t firing. Unfortunately, the safety is stuck pretty tight and it’s going to be hard to free it.

Many think parents are powerful forces against the Common Core and we do make huge difference. Parents only have power in numbers and growing these numbers is not as easy as it should be. Consider the following conversation I had with a parent.

Me:Have you seen the new Common Core Standards? I’m shocked Indiana abandoned superior standards for an untested set of national standards that our state does not control.

Parent X: What are you talking about? I’ve never heard of the Common Core.

Me: The school is following new national standards written by beauracrats in Washington DC. The school has cut creative literature by 50% in English class and the kids are doing fuzzy math.

Parent X: Is that what that math is? It is horrible, my kids hate it and we have crying every night at homework. It’s so vague, they don’t know what to do.

Me: Yes, that’s it. Here are some interesting articles written by mathematicians and leading English language arts experts for you to read. Would you help us talk to the school about it or join us at the Statehouse to fight against it?

Parent X:  Yes, this is ridiculous. I will definitely talk to the teacher.


Me: Hey, did you read the articles or talk to the kids teachers? Do you want to help us fight Common Core?

Parent X: No, my teacher said Common Core is OK. They’re fewer, clearer and deeper. Here’s your copies back, I didn’t have time to read them.

That is how it goes. People believe their child’s teacher and they should be able to do so, they are the expert. What many parents don’t recognize is that teachers are bound to silence, sometimes through a contractual agreement. While the parent was conferencing with the teacher about Common Core, the school administrator was probably in the hallway, like a bully from an After School Special, staring her down into silence.

I’m looking for fearless teachers who would handle the conference like this: You’re right, I don’t like these standards. Are you aware the Common Core lead math writer, Jason Simba, said they only prepare students for a two-year non-selective college, not a four year university?  I’m having a really difficult time interpreting them and there are a lot of holes. I’m afraid kids are missing out on important aspects in math and the loss of creative literature is a crying shame. Really, Parent X, it’s not about creating intelligent kids for the 21st century it about supplying a workforce. I suggest you supplement at home.

Parents would go nuts and every legislator would be supporting anti-common core legislation. If the left leaning groups could rally their teachers to speak out and tell parents the truth, it would be game over. The right has a secret weapon as well, it’s parents. We are powerful because the only dog we have in this fight is our children. We aren’t protecting a corporate interest, a union, an administration or any other self-interested group. We fight with heart and it speaks to people. Unlike teachers, the school principal can’t fire us and put us in jeopardy of losing our mortgages and therefore, I understand teachers’ restraint.

As parents and parties interested in stopping Common Core, for whatever reasons, we need to find a way for teachers opposed to the Common Core to speak without fear. I am open to any suggestions.

The mothers and the teachers can finish this fight, they’re the only ones with soldiers actually in the field and the ones who will take the casualties.




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Comments (12)

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  1. Kris Nielsen says:

    Although I don’t know why it’s even necessary to even mention left and right here (teachers are both), I will tell you that it’s dangerous for one teacher–or even a small group– to speak up. There needs to be numbers for the fear to subside. If the majority of teacher stuck together through the threats and the bullying, they would have a better chance of weathering the storm. I just spoke to a group of about 25 teachers in a small district who are now ready to jump in together and start speaking out.

    • Erin Tuttle says:

      Thanks for the reply. You are correct about teachers being from all political perspectives and we have always supported them in anyway we can. Many progressive educator groups are actively fighting against corporate reform policies that include the Common Core. In Cody’s blog he asks how they could be more effective like the Tea Party has been. Their groups have many effective educators that are informed and active. I wrote my post to show we want to work with them because they do hold a lot of power.

      How did you organize the group you spoke to in the small district? I’m looking for suggestions on how to reach them. Thanks.

  2. Juan says:

    Teachers need to find “moles” on the school boards to ask about “gag orders” – I frequently talk about this in my class with my high school students. Many of my students are aware that something is going on. When we were given instructions on CST testing in CA, there was a video which said teachers MAY NOT solicit waivers or opt-out requests from students…which was interpreted by teachers to mean that we could not let students know that they didn’t have to take the test. In my district at least we dont really hunt down the kids. There is a make-up day if a student misses the tests, but if they are absent then also it seems to kinda go away. Counselors do threaten students that if they don’t take the tests seriously they may be placed below their actual level. BUT since we really only have 2 tracks – Honors/AP and College Prep (which is our general level) it probably wouldn’t amount to much of a threat since their former teacher and report cards could attest to their actual skill level with relative accuracy. Teachers need to have advocates on the PTA/PTO of their school who knows to ask these questions. Teachers who leave should be asked about this, as well as retired teachers who are under no obligation to keep the district’s secret. Having written for a company in my darker days, I can tell you that the test makers are more concerned about copyright and protecting the intellectual property to the point that when a student is able to somehow take a cell pic and post a question, they worry less about cheating and more about copyright infringement. Given that students are minors I’m not sure exactly how they would hold their family liable. But if teachers were to take a couple quick pics of a test and pass those on to an outside media source, perhaps in a different county or state so the original source of the leak couldn’t be accounted for it might give parents an idea of the validity of the so-called assessments. Teachers assess daily and know where kids are at within the first month or so of school. Regular quizzes let us know who needs help and who needs a greater challenge. Until PARENTS take a stand…and we’re seeing it happen slowly…districts and legislators aren’t going to blink.

    • Erin Tuttle says:

      I like your suggestion about retired teachers. Many of them are active and helpful. The national PTA group is funded by the corporate reformer Gates, so they are not really “on our side” but the local groups could be an ally. The testing is so out of control and the control of the testing is authoritarian. Thanks for your response, please contact us if you have more information.

  3. frustrated parent says:

    Teachers, as parents we depend on you to do what is in the best interest of our children. Each day we send our children to school trusting you will protect them. Are you protecting our children from data mining? Are you fighting for the top 25% of students who continue to be pushed down to the middle?
    If you are a Catholic school teacher, are you fighting for our institution? If we adopt the same curriculum as a public school, including grading, what makes us different? Is religion class during school hours the only difference between a Catholic school and a Public school? Will Mass once or twice a week during school hours be worth the expense of tuition when Math/Science/reading is the same as the public school?

  4. Thank you Erin,
    This is exactly what we have been experiencing as we, too, attempt to inform on the realities of CCSS texts, testing, and database aggregation.
    Parents, pastors, citizens will seek counsel from a public educator, administrator, principle…who, do to employment, retirement funds and contractual agreements is only able to speak “politically correct” nebulous phrases, reassuring that this is not really so bad…just another gov’t mandated program for funds.

    Pray that educators will find their Objective voices, and that all parents, gov’t schooled, private, homeschooling parents will unite against their common foe: Nationalized control of Education and Database aggregation which removes parental Choice of their child’s education and their future.

  5. I’m wondering about Common Core in New Mexico. It is to be instated next year and teachers have been working on aligning curriculum. They seem to think its a good thing. But, my friend in Texas said that their legislature has outlawed the curriculum while keeping the standards. I’m needing to get a full-time job to pay back my student loans and this has really given me pause about teaching. I taught on year already and it seemed that teachers, 4 years ago, already had little control over their teaching. The government is making teaching a burdensome task when it used to be a joy. Their is little discipline, teachers are blamed when students don’t apply themselves and don’t do well on test.

  6. Judyann J says:

    The federal government has NO business being involved in education, nor is it remotely acceptable that it holds hostage tax monies earmarked for education forcing their standards.
    It is more than a little worrisome that teachers and administrations are actually under gag orders. There have been standardized tests used for many years yet never has this been required. What are they afraid of? What is within the tests, and the teachings, which the government is so determined to be withheld from parents?
    I have been told by people who are investigating the material being used, examples of test questions and frankly, I am more than appalled, I am livid. The questions are ambiguous and there are subtle messages being transmitted to our children which are downright disgraceful. I have every intention of investigating Common Core and, when I do, will share that information with as many patents as I can talk to.
    The federal government has few and defined responsibilities and, demanding certain requirements of education is not among them. The are responsible for securing our borders and protecting our sovereignty and, at this, they are failing miserably. I would suggest people demand our federal government start concentrating on their designated duties and cease inserted themselves into areas in which they do not belong.
    Luckily, I so no longer have school age children but, if I did, given the present atmosphere within public schools systems, I would feel compelled to home school them.

  7. Alli says:

    Oh my, here it is 2015, 1 and 2 years after the orginal blog and comments were written, and we are in the same place with CCSS And gag orders. Nothing has changed. Maybe it is worse. The fear is mountain high and moral in the depths of the sea. Many teachers have the koolaid in their glass or do not wish to fight for fear of losing their,jobs or the fight being difficult and uncomfortable. It will make them look bad. They just want to do their job and go home to be happy. There is little to be happy about and how can they i pose these inappropriate, work training ideas on our children, killing cognitive thinking , creativity and real learning?
    I have been outranged here in Wisconsin under Gov Walker and his dirty educational deads that are killing public education in this state with the hopes of recreating in every state when he is elected president of the united states.
    I am that teacher who,has been deamonized for,telling the truth. It has gotten to the point that my fellow employees will not stand with me because they do not want to be treated as i am.
    To date, i have not been aboe to get anyone to run for school board or take action against these unjustices to themselves or children. I have resigned to fightly quietly in my classroom.

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