DelExcels blog post and my response (in moderation of course) #netDE #eduDE

Thanks to DEDOE twitter feed I found this:




Delaware Teacher Jennifer Hollstein on Common Core

by / Friday, 09 May 2014 / Published in DelExcels blog, Educators, News, Parents

Evidence of our irrational fears:

  • Y2K
  • Killer bees
  • Clowns
  • The hype surrounding the Common Core

We are a culture of worriers. Just turn on the news and you’ll hear that “experts fear” pretty much everything and that “new studies warn” us that life is scary at every turn. Lately, the Common Core has been the media target. The reports and comments about these standards have been so extreme that, as a practicing teacher, I can only laugh at the incongruity between the myth and the reality.

For example, one educational blogger wrote that the Common Core was scarier than the end of the world, natural disasters and zombies (yes, he said “zombies”). As a person who teaches these standards each day, I can assure you that I would be far more frightened if a tornado swept up my classroom or if my students turned pale and began twitching and groaning than if they determined the central ideas of a text or evaluated the specific claims in an argument.

When conservative author and constitutional lawyer Phyllis Schlafly claimed that the Common Core would “dumb down children so they will be obedient servants to the government,” I could only visualize what she must think occurs behind the scenes. Imagine our very own Governor Markell, a leader in this educational reform, sitting on a gilded throne wearing a crown and cape, tapping his fingertips together and shouting “mwahahaha” as he plans to make Delaware’s children dependent on the state. Is this really a theory we are willing to invest in?

As a high school English teacher in a top-performing school, I can assure you that I am not “dumbing it down” in order to produce the robots, zombies and infidels of the future. Instead, I am focusing more deeply on critical thinking skills, modern researching skills, and the identification of fallacious reasoning and distorted evidence. Now, that last one should make Schlafly worry!

Also, I’d like to address this idea that the English teachers can no longer teach fiction as if the government is ripping classics from our clenched hands. In my classroom, Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson and Wilson’s The Piano Lesson (among others) are very much alive. Alongside the novels, my students read primary nonfiction sources to support these texts, such as Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon, the Jim Crow Laws and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Finally, my students have not been transformed into deserts, barren of all creativity. They continue to thrive as they write before-and-after scenes for The Scarlet Letter, mirroring Hawthorne’s complex ideas and language. They flourish as they create podcasts of great American speeches, writing witty banter to complement their multifaceted analysis. They perform their own original works, competing in poetry slams as they develop their presentation skills. Despite the hype that the Common Core will turn them into phantom menaces, they are thinking, breathing, dynamic human beings, and I am proud to be their teacher.

Jennifer has 14 years of experience teaching in Delaware schools. She currently teaches English at The Charter School of Wilmington. One of her greatest passions is encouraging students to problem-solve, plan and create in a group setting, which has led her to design innovative electives such as Think Tank that inspire her students to actively find solutions to problems they see in their community.


No Responses to “Delaware Teacher Jennifer Hollstein on Common Core”

  1. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    The reports and comments about these standards have been so extreme that, as a practicing teacher, I can only laugh at the incongruity between the myth and the reality.

    Indeed! Cases in point:

    1) they were state led (actually it was a consortia of NGA, CCSSO and Achieve,Inc.)
    2) active K-12 educators led the writing. (no K-3 teachers at all) and 2 active both not writing in their areas.
    3) They were adopted,unread, by the Delaware State Board, in August 2010, AFTER being committed to in 2009 in our RTTT application for grant (that “won”) before they were even written.
    4) Delaware stakeholders were not involved leading to a unanimous rebuke of implementation by the DSEA 2014 RA in March.

    So to recap:
    Common standards will lead to higher achievement: myth
    They were crafted in public meeting with public input: myth
    Delaware educators were involved: myth
    They were adopted unread by DE leaders: fact
    They were written by trade organizations: fact
    The Federal Government gave point on RTTT grant application for agreeing to adopt CCSS: fact
    The CCSS are scarier than Zombies: we agree, myth. But theysure aren’t any panacea

    I also can’t stop laughing myself at all the Governor’s lies, the Secretary’s lies, and now your complicity. CCSS were crafted in darkness, by trade organizations with virtually no state input and adopted on the end of a federal carrot (RTTT). It was shady then, and the proponents are getting just desserts now.

    Lastly, rather than delete this post, or not post it. Put it up with a peer reviewed paper rebuking the claim that there is no evidence that common standards will lead to higher achievement.That might actually shut me up. Until then, laughing with you, for very different reasons.


One thought on “DelExcels blog post and my response (in moderation of course) #netDE #eduDE

  1. Steven Fackenthall

    She works at Charter. So with all due respect to her, DUH, they are going to work. An argument against is how rigourous and in-depth they are when many of our poverty-stricken students don’t have the basic fundamentals to learn these standards. Most of these students are already behind so now they will just be completely lost? Another problem is the implementation. Many schools haven’t figured out PD will look for this but they are expected to be used.

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