With all the states' rights hoopla over Common Core, and a Fox News blow-up a couple of days ago with the old chant about politics and federal government having no place in schools, Times Free Press reporter Kevin Hardy's look into Hamilton County teacher Linda Sparks' English class gave readers an inside peek at a program now in its second year here.
The view was good. Common Core is designed not just to give students memorized answers so they can pass a test. It's designed, and seems to be working, to help students learn to think and problem-solve for themselves. Clearly students who learn to problem-solve have the advantage of being able to teach themselves in addition to learning from teachers.
Sparks, a long-time teacher at Soddy-Daisy High, has seen plenty of education reforms, fads and fixes. But these new benchmarks feel different -- even game-changing, she says: "This is something that you can use equally as well in a chemistry class, a history class or a mathematics class."
Another goal of the program, like "No Child Left Behind" another national push by George W. and Laura Bush, is to create consistent learning goals. Conservatives had no problem with that Bush program, but now they say Common Core is a federal "takeover" and they claim it isn't the federal government's job to impose educational standards.
Baloney. That's like saying political (federal, state, city, all-the-village) leaders have no business concerning themselves with whether we are preparing students with skills to succeed in the 21st century workplace and global economy. Of course we all should be imposing higher standards. And it is the business of all of us.
Perhaps those folks flying the federal takeover and state's rights flag weren't taught the common-sense, common core problem-solving method of "homework" and research, so they don't understand that Common Core is the work of states. The program was actually developed by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and a nonprofit group called Achieve.
And perhaps the Eagle Forum, which yelped this week over a New Jersey fifth-grade English worksheet that Forum Executive Director Glyn Wright called "full of inappropriate left-wing notions," didn't get those problem-solving lessons either. Common Core isn't a curriculum -- federal or otherwise. It's a program -- a set of guidelines.
However, some states have provided curriculum materials that are optional for local districts. Such was the case, apparently in the New Jersey fifth-grade classroom. New Jersey, with a Republican governor, is a state that did create its own classroom material, calling it's work "a model curriculum." Back to the drawing board, Eagle Forum.
Obamacare and private insurance cancellations
There seems to a quieting on the right horizon about Obamacare. No, Republicans are not taking back any their insults and they aren't apologizing (though they should) about any of the misinformation they've thrown out. But the railing has been reduced to murmurs -- in part because we slow media types are beginning to catch up on correcting some of the so-called horror stories or headlines.
Case in point: the numerous recent Obamacare-forces-insurance-cancellations headlines.
Misinformation No. 1,014 (or 20 or ... ): Private individual insurance policies are usually 12-month contracts, and the plans that existed in March 2010, when the Affordable Care Act became law, were "grandfathered in," as long as they didn't change much, even if they didn't meet the new law's requirements.
But insurance companies like to change their insurance plans to adjust cost-sharing and benefits. That means that many of the grandfathered plans disappeared simply because the insurers made the same adjustments to meet their bottom lines that they've been making for decades. And frankly, it makes good business sense that the plans were canceled: what benefit is there to a managed care company in maintaining a health plan that doesn't offer the fuller benefits now required and therefore can't enroll new subscribers?
It would seem that the marketplace dictated these cancellations as much as did Obamacare.