Believe it or not, the Public Editor of the New York Times–the newspaper’s ombudsman–published a letter by teacher Heidi Reich about the flaws of the Common Core. This was amazing and gratifying to see because up until now the “newspaper of record” has failed to print a single story critical of the Common Core or that reflected the views of informed critics, especially teachers. Instead the Times has tried to sell the line that only crazed Tea Party extremists and a handful of leftist extremists question the wisdom of these wonderful national standards.

Heidi Reich’s letter explains the state’s failure to provide support, resources, and guidance for teachers, whose jobs will be tied to test results. She ends her letter in the Times on this note:

“It would be duplicitous for the powers that be to withhold those expectations from us if they were even close to having established them, but we are all too aware that, unfortunately, Pearson and others are scrambling madly to write tests (for billions and billions of dollars) that they have no time to field test, which has already resulted in chaos and utter confusion in lower grades in NY State. My colleagues and I have NO problem holding students to high standards as long as those standards are clearly conveyed to us and as long as we have time to develop appropriate curricula and activities. (We would have used the summer to do this if the standards had been available before September — not happily, but we would have done so.) The current situation is diametrically opposed to that. And I must reiterate my disappointment that The Times, the only paper of record as far as I am concerned, totally missed the point: that parents and students and educators are ALL up in arms about the Common Core, not just extremist politicians on both sides, because to us, the Common Core standards are not even standards. They are vague ideas being developed (for huge personal profit) by billionaires and testing companies, imposed upon teachers, students and parents with complete disregard for education, learning and progress.”

I was especially pleased to see Heidi Reich’s letter, because it was originally written in response to a piece I posted on April 20, called “Why Doesn’t the New York Times Understand the Controversy Over the Common Core?” The post expressed frustration with the insistence by the editorial board, the opinion writers, and the reporters that the Common Core was the best thing ever and that its only critics were extremists. A column by David Brooks, echoing the conventional wisdom framed by Arne Duncan, ridiculed the critics as part of a circus of extremists. The final straw was when a first-page story portrayed the battle over the Common Core as an intramural struggle between “moderate” Jeb Bush, who loves Common Core (but hates public education) and the even more extreme Ted Cruz. My post listed a series of crucial issues that the Times overlooked, while ignoring the voices of teachers, administrators, and parents who had strong concerns a bout the rapid adoption of untested national standards.

Soon after my post was published, a reader recommended that everyone write to the public editor of the New York Times. four hours later, Heidi Reich posted a comment to say that she had done exactly that, explaining why she–an experienced and successful math teacher–was critical of the Common Core. .

This is the comment that Reich posted at 4:27 pm on April 20, and it is very close to what the Times published today.

hreich
April 20, 2014 at 4:27 pm
This is the letter I sent to Ms. Sullivan.

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

I’m writing to express my dismay at the Times’s representation of opposition to the Common Core. I’m sure you have received many letters so far, some from “extremist” politicians, including Republicans and leaders of various teachers’ unions, sure; but others from parents, moderately political teachers and possibly even a student or two. I am a teacher and have been for 15 years which means I am right in the middle of my career. I have been recognized for my teaching by Math for America (I have been a “Master Teacher” for eight or so years now), am locally respected (sorry, no data to support that) and have loved my job for all of these years. Now I find that the nutty wacky whims of the Department of Education under Bloomberg and Klein have been dwarfed by NYS and the federal government’s desire to implement truly difficult standards in a matter of months. We (teachers) are required to write curriculum based on almost NO information, tailor said curriculum to testing about which there are NO data, and still teach our five classes of 34 students a day without skipping a beat.

I imagine you are thinking, why do you need to tailor curriculum to tests, especially if the tests don’t even exist yet? Sure, it has something to do with our jobs being on the line if our students don’t surpass some standard or other (sorry, but to us it all seems just so very arbitrary), but more to the point, no reform means anything until you see what assessment is going to be. We are accustomed to writing our curricula by determining what it is we want our students to be able to do and then designing activities and lessons to convey those expectations and to train students to accomplish goals. It would be duplicitous for the powers that be to withhold those expectations from us if they were even close to having established them, but we are all too aware that, unfortunately, Pearson and others are scrambling madly to write tests (for billions and billions of dollars) that they have no time to field test, which has already resulted in chaos and utter confusion in lower grades in NY State. My colleagues and I have NO problem holding students to high standards as long as those standards are clearly conveyed to us and as long as we have time to develop appropriate curricula and activities. (We would have used the summer to do this if the standards had been available before September — not happily, but we would have done so.) The current situation is diametrically opposed to that. And I must reiterate my disappointment that the NYT, the only paper of record as far as I am concerned, totally missed the point: that parents and students and educators are ALL up in arms about the Common Core, not just extremist politicians on both sides, because to us, the CC standards are not even standards. They are vague ideas being developed (for huge personal profit) by billionaires and testing companies, imposed upon teachers, students and parents with complete disregard for education, learning and progress. And there, Ms. Sullivan, is your story.

Thanks and very best wishes,

Heidi Reich

Congratulations to Heidi Reich! You spoke eloquently for many of us whose views go unnoticed by the New York Times and the mainstream media.

Now, let’s see whether their reporters follow up by writing articles telling the facts about the origins of the Common Core, about the absence of classroom teachers from the writing group for the standards, about the absence of early childhood educators and educators of students with disabilities, about the overrepresentation of employees the testing industry on the writing committee, about why Common Core was quickly adopted by 46 states (to be eligible for the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding), about the criticism by leading scholarly organizations of tying teacher evaluations to student test scores, about the lack of evidence that higher, more rigorous standards produces higher achievement, and about the corporate interests now pushing Common Core. None of these facts are conspiracy theory but all have been neglected by the New York Times, which has faithfully parroted the narrative shaped by the advocates for the Common Core.