Teachers to state honcho: Common Core standards too tough, not smart

rdymond@bradenton.comJanuary 15, 2014 

MANATEE -- Kathy Kimes, a fifth-grade teacher at Gilbert W. McNeal Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch, stood Tuesday and addressed Jim Browder, regional executive director for the Florida Department of Education.

Their short mannerly conversation had the impact of a sledgehammer when it comes to the topic of Florida's Common Core education standards.

"Beginning next year, I will not be able to give my students the formula for calculating the area of a square," Kimes told Browder and an estimated 100 people attending the Tea Party Manatee program at Mixon Fruit Farms on Common Core.

"I will not be allowed to tell them you multiple the length times the width to get the area," Kimes said. "Instead, They want me to give my students a real square and tell them to figure out for themselves how to calculate for the area."

"Who is they?" Browder

asked.

"You is they," Kimes replied.

The exchange set the crowd buzzing. When the crowd settled, Browder told Kimes to go right on giving her students the formula, but to do more.

"I would tell them the formula, but also show them the square and get them to think about it in a creative way," Browder said.

After the two-hour program, Kimes said the videos she and her fellow teachers have been given about the new way they are supposed to teach beginning next August don't condone giving the formula.

"The standards are not the issue," Kimes said. "It is the second part of it, the instructional methods."

Kimes, also an engineer, said she has been using the video instructions with her students. She split students into groups, as she was taught.

"Some figured out the area and some didn't," Kimes said.

"My view is why are we spending an hour grappling with this problem when there is a formula that is already known?" Kimes said. "Let me give them the formula and use it to, perhaps, find the area of a triangle on top of the square."

Browder said he believes in the standards and the "creative thinking" that is part of the standards.

But he seemed disappointed by a comment from Brian Bustle, principal of Palmetto Charter School.

Bustle said his daughter's American history textbook at Palmetto High School clearly says: "America is a democracy."

"We are a republic in America, a country ruled by law," Bustle said.

Browder said he agreed textbooks may be geared to the entire Common Core system.

Lynda May, who teaches seventh-grade civics at King Middle School, said far too much is expected of students and teachers by Common Core standards.

In six weeks, her students must learn the U.S. Constitution, the workings of the three branches of American government, examine the complete judicial system on the state and federal level, uncover nine landmark cases of Civil Rights that came before the U.S. Supreme Court and learn about the Bill of Rights, she said.

"I do want Florida to stand out," May said. "But it needs to be a system that takes into account our diversity of students and all of their levels."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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