Students and teachers at the annual Education Nation town hall on Sunday expressed mixed reactions to the Common Core, mirroring divisions in the wider national conversation about new standards in math and English adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
“I see students rolling their eyes,” said Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC host and moderator of the Student Town Hall, after College Board president David Coleman – who was deeply involved in writing the standards – promoted their value before several hundred students.
Coleman explained that the new standards would allow teachers to spend more time teaching basic concepts and create a solid foundation for learning.
Why, then, a student audience member asked, were some states backing away?
Coleman answered by listing supporters of the Common Core, including what he said were almost 80 percent of teachers and a bi-partisan coalition of Democratic and Republican governors.
A high school student and Coleman’s fellow panelists didn’t seem satisfied.
“Can you answer the question?” Perry insisted.
Coleman responded by denying that states were backing out of the initiative but added that they were tweaking the Common Core standards to meet their own needs and address their own concerns.
Not everyone was satisfied.
“David Coleman just showed a roomful of students that tap dancing is more important than giving a straightforward answer,” tweeted a music teacher from New Jersey.
At the Teacher Town Hall, later in the day, Common Core once came up again, as many in the audience of some 300 teachers expressed concern that they lacked preparation to teach the new standards. (A report released earlier this year showed half of teachers across the country were worried about the standards as well).
A teacher from Oakland California complained there is too often a myopic focus on the technical aspect of how teachers do their job, and noted there are other important aspects of teaching that people fail to take into account.
“At the end of the day what matters most is relationships….meaningful relationships with students, teachers, families,” he said causing the room to fill with thunderous applause from his fellow teachers.