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Teacher: I Am Not an Outlier!

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Guest blogger Brad Clark is a 2013-2014 Hope Street Group fellow and Lead Gifted Teacher for Woodford County Public Schools.

When a handful of state legislators in the Kentucky General Assembly introduced House BIll 215 to repeal the KY Core Academic Standards (KCAS), I did not consider it anything other than an attack on the work that my 94 students over the past three years have invested in my classroom and their own learning. Ask any of my students: there have been tears; blood, sweat and intellectual tears. They have worked their tails off. I have a deep respect for them because of their diligence and willingness to persevere. I never worked that hard in school.

As a teacher under the KCAS, I have grown more in three years through my own investigation of the Common Core State Standards than I had the previous four years on the job plus a Master of Arts degree and a Certification in Gifted Education combined. The KCAS are sort of like a parable: They are simple on the surface but upon further reflection, they open up like a lotus flower. There is beauty in their design.

I have the freedom to design a rich curriculum that incorporates principles of design thinking, imparts higher level literary analysis and criticism, interweaves patterns and themes of human behavior throughout History with analysis of literary characters as they are designed by various authors. This freedom is a direct extension of my exploration of the KCAS.

This is my experience with the Common Core and I am not an outlier. I am a voice of one but there are many like me sitting in classrooms all over the Commonwealth.

There are nearly 43,000 teachers in KY. For every square mile in our state, you can find a teacher. I wonder how many of us believe we are better teachers now than we were three years ago? How many teachers across the Commonwealth are fast becoming masters of data-based instruction as a result of the KCAS?

I do not understand how anyone that understands KY schools could be in opposition to the KCAS. Our students are learning content, concepts, critical thinking processes and skills that I was never afforded in my pre- KERA and post-KERA schooling. The difference between my learning experiences K-12 and those of my elementary students is not even comparable. Not even close.

We have entered an era of learning that cares more about growth than achievement. When students, teachers and administrators are all expected to grow and a culture that values growth is formed, the natural by-product is achievement.

It is too early to look to longitudinal research on student growth and achievement in our state. It does not exist. But our students are growing. Go to a classroom; find out: We expect more of our children. Kentuckians can thank KCAS for this paradigm shift.

Our teachers are growing. We are tearing down the silos that plague our profession. We are stepping out of our classrooms. We are extending our expertise to the rest of nation. We are building an interconnected network of teacher leaders that seeks to highlight the best resources and strategies used by master educators throughout the state. Teachers across the Commonwealth are finally finding their voice, a voice with a clear purpose: improving our schools, advocating for our students and elevating our profession. Teachers can thank KCAS for this paradigm shift.

I am not mad at the legislators that proposed HB215. Surely, they must have concerns that drive them to do what is best for kids. But I must speak very plainly: We cannot afford to reverse the clock on the 652,317 kids and 42,943 teachers in our 1,233 public schools. That is exactly what HB215 would do were it to pass the legislature. That is unacceptable.

Students and teachers alike have worked too hard over the past three years to be the best versions of themselves, to meet their untapped potential.

I can no longer stay silent on matters that affect my fellow teachers and the hundreds of thousands of students that each KY teachers represent. I can no longer sit quietly idling while others, who do not truly understand the implications of HB215, make decisions that could potentially erase all of our progress. I am not an outlier. I am one of nearly 43,000 teachers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and it is time for each of us to exercise our voice.

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