NYC teacher: “THIS is what the Common Core is doing to our children; it’s heartbreaking and wrong”



You yourself said the authoritative voice is that of the teachers. Read what this Brooklyn, NY teacher – whom I hold in high regard – has to say about your Common Core package. – Katie Lapham

“Today after school the 3rd grade sister of a student of mine joined the debate team for our practice, as she sometimes does. Afterwards I asked her how 3rd grade was going, and she replied “terribly!” I asked why and she told me that the (New York) state ELA test was coming up in a few weeks and she was afraid she would fail. Her eyes teared up when I asked her why she thought she would fail. “Because I’m an idiot!,” she replied. She was careful to stress that it wasn’t her teacher’s fault, but her very own that she didn’t feel ready. It was heartbreaking. This sweet girl was taking on the entire weight of the testing regime and trying to protect her teacher by blaming herself for what she views as inevitable failure. THIS is what the Common Core is doing to our children. It’s heartbreaking and it’s wrong.”

– Devon Whitham, teacher

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13 Responses to NYC teacher: “THIS is what the Common Core is doing to our children; it’s heartbreaking and wrong”

  1. It’s a damn shambles.

  2. Theresa G. says:

    I’m sorry to hear that a student would feel this way. It is terrible how our students have taken on this burden and would ever feel that they were an “idiot” – particularly in 3rd grade. I wonder how we could help her, and students like her, become more resilient. Even if this assessment were to magically disappear, there will be other “assessment moments” in life that she will need to face and I want to her to face them head on and reduce the anxiety that those moments might produce. A fellow educator recently shared that she took the temperature of her classroom about the upcoming assessments – while some were nervous and others neutral, a number of the students commented they were “excited” and ready to show what they had learned this year and what they knew. How can we capture that spirit moving forward to ease the anxiety of others?

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Hi Theresa,

      We are not in education to create “grit and rigor“, nor to make children more resilient to standardized testing. What is the purpose of education? This would be a discussion the public ought to be having in town halls across the nation.

      Corporations and predatory philanthropists have no business in our professional work.

      Susan, Co-Author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

      • Joan says:

        That’s right- if we wanted or children to have “grit and rigor”, perhaps we should make joining the Marines mandatory for them at a very early age. Maybe send them off to fight the next war, too????? No offense intended for our military forces.

        However, I agree with you- what is the purpose of education? To churn out unthinking worker bees for the corporations of the future? Or to create a society where people are engaged in constructing a reality of equality and justice for all?

        As you said, Susan, that should be the question that should be debated in town halls across the nation, if we’re to have any future in this country at all.

  3. Pingback: Ghazal for Bill Gates | teachpoet

  4. Theresa G. says:

    Interesting that I attempted to open a dialogue- which you purport to do on this site- and instead am mischaracterized. When I wrote about resilience- it was to anything that might be thrown one’s way not just standardized tests. Children should be able to develop habits of mind to help them when they encounter things they, or others, see as difficult or unpleasant. I believe these habits of mind are a part of the”purpose of education” – for my family and others. And I’m sorry this child has not been provided an opportunity to develop this.
    I am curious as I have not found it elsewhere on this site- what do you believe is the purpose of education?

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Clearly, Theresa, we are engaging in dialogue. No one needs to develop “habits of mind” and “resilience” to TEST ABUSE. No one. To develop “habits of mind” of resistance to abuse, YES. To develop “habits of mind that include social justice and civil disobedience” – YES. No one needs to develop resilience to testing misuse and abuse. No. We won’t be teaching that habit of mind. We’ll teach how to stand up and speak truth to power instead. We’ll teach how to opt out of abusive corporate education reforms instead.

      As to the purpose of education, teachers here have posted multiple times about the “Freedom to Teach and Freedom to Learn”, about creativity and development of one’s individual potential, to pursue hopes and dreams, talents and aspirations — students having a voice in their education – public education being a crucible for democracy, etc. We have also suggested that this be a topic not just for the few that post here on Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates to dialogue about – “the purpose of public education” – but for the nation to have a dialogue about this topic.

      Are you a public school teacher?

      Thank you again for the dialogue.

      Susan, Kindergarten Teacher and Co-Author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

      • Theresa G. says:

        I think perhaps we are coming at dialogue a bit differently – I use the term as “a discussion between two or more people or groups, esp. one directed toward exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem.” I am not sure that my perspective or questions are ones that are welcome here as the same words keep getting thrown back time and again in the reply. Teaching resilience is about teaching that habit of mind for all encounters that might be deemed unpleasant. In your opinion, TEST ABUSE is happening and work in schools around resilience and other matters of social-emotional learning would certainly assist all students if this is the culture in which they are being educated. One doesn’t teach these things in isolation around particular circumstances – they are taught as a part of being successful at this uncertain thing we call life.

        As to my profession – I wonder would it make my claim stronger or would it invite additional criticism. What if I were a charter school or private school teacher? An administrator? A university professor? What if I were a CEO of a large corporation? What if I were a laborer on a farm? What if I were a parent? What if I were childless? What if I lived in the USA? Finland? China? It seems at one time or another – these roles are all either called upon to participate or cast out for not having the standing to weigh in. I have noticed that when the points seem valid, it is easy to cast shadows on the person making them rather than trying to find points of agreement and solution. Ahh…back to dialogue.

    • Teresa Ward says:

      Obviously, Theresa you have not been privy to seeing any of the curriculum. It is the dumbest mess I have ever encountered. MY grandson is in kindergarten. He is reading second grade level and doing math on a 2nd and 3rd grade level. I have seen problems in the workbooks that he has just laughed at. They are so dumb and make no sense. It is not rigor it is dumbing down our children. It is bringing our children down to the level of those that do not want to learn.

  5. cheryl says:

    Continuing the dialogue, it is my hope that children’s bodies will develop resilience to diseases that may injure their bodies. As for developing resilience to take a standardized test and some of the other developmentally inappropriate “reforms” that people with no understanding of children are forcing upon them, the answer is resilience doesn’t belong there. The people who need resilience and stamina are the teachers and educators and parents who stand daily to fight against the corporations who are only in this for money. As a teacher for almost 40 years, I can tell you that what children and teachers are being told to do in this age of corporations and people like Bill Gates, is abuse and supports children’s learning in no way. I would love to have dialogue with Mr. Gates and all the others;and I would start with why aren’t your children subjected to the same? We know the answer but Mr. Gates are you willing to admit it?

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Thank you, Cheryl for your comment. We have many things to hope for OUR children. Evidently, Mr. and Mrs. Gates do too, but they don’t seem to want their own children to develop resiliency to high stakes testing. They don’t seem to want their own children to develop resiliency to Common Core. They don’t seem to want their own children to develop resiliency to having an education with the students who attend our Title 1 schools in neighborhoods of poverty. They don’t seem to want their own children to develop resiliency to “grit and rigor”. They don’t seem to want their own children to develop resiliency to having their neighborhood schools closed or “turned around”. No, they don’t.

      Per the Daily Caller: @DailyCaller: Bill Gates wants to force Common Core on YOUR kids but leave HIS kids out of it . Nor do Bill and Melinda want their own children to develop Common Core syndrome which can lead to a long list of mental and physical conditions, perhaps sadly, even suicide: .

      I am appreciative of your feedback as you join us in our work to end corporate education reform, privatization, re-segregation, and our “separate but still unequal” tiered system of education created by these reforms.

      Kind regards,

      Susan DuFresne, Integrated Kindergarten Teacher and Co-author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates

  6. jane Lenk says:

    Dear Mr. and Mrs Gates: This is what is gong on in every county across the country as students with disabilities are forced to take tests they are not yet ready for and have not learned the content:

    In about one week I, and my colleagues, will be asked to participate in educational malpractice. This malpractice will be in the form of administering the state mandated standardized tests. I have read many critiques about these new Common Core aligned tests. But no criticism I have read has touched on an issue of such fundamental fairness and decency that I must speak of it.

    These tests discriminate against students with disabilities. They do this is many ways, but the method I wish to address today, is that they require us to give tests that cover material the student has not yet been taught. So imagine if you had taken French all year and were eager to demonstrate how much you had learned and felt ready for the French test. But the test you were handed instead was in Spanish. Your face flushes, you feel like you are about to throw up, but instead you shakily ask the teacher and she says, “well I know you have not learned this yet, but just do the best you can.”

    This may seem extreme and unfathomable. But imagine a 5th grader with a severe learning disability in math. He needs to begin learning math facts and how to add and subtract accurately and place value. At the end of the year he has learned a lot and is so much farther ahead then when he began. But he is not yet at the end of the year 5th grade level. He is handed a test that contains decimals, percentages and fractions. He has learned none of this and we just shake our heads and say, “Do the best you can.” Right next to him sits the 5th grade girl reading at a 2nd grade level. After a year of hard work, she now reads at the beginning of 5th grade level! She is so proud. But the test she is forced to take is at the end of the 5th grade level, and she has not learned yet about metaphor and point of view. She’s heard of these things but has had no time to practice. She was busy working with her teacher on fluency, and difficult spelling and word patterns.

    She looks around, feeling sick to her stomach. Her non-disabled peers are working easily and steadily. Some will do well and others not so well. She however will fail, and she knows it. She shakily raises her hand. Her teacher shrugs and says, “I know you have not learned this yet. Just do the best you can.”

    • Teachers'LettersToBillGates says:

      Hi Jane,

      I would like to post your amazing letter. Are you a special education teacher? What state please?

      Thank you,

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