How Bad Is It Going to Get?

Less than a year ago, I really didn’t know much about Common Core or Smarter Balanced.

I know.  I’m a teacher.

How is that possible?

But let me tell you that when you work in a field where those with the cash and political influence are constantly “reforming” your profession, without ever asking what those who actually work with children think about the changes they are making, you realize pretty quickly that there’s really not much you can do about any of it anyway. And so all the new stuff that comes your way starts to become…. well, all the new stuff that’s always coming your way.

As we got closer to having to administer the new Smarter Balanced test, however, and began hearing things that really didn’t make much sense – that, for example, this test was going to be the most powerful teaching tool we had (Better than books, pencils, and my own trusty eyes and ears? How could that be?) – I decided it was best to do some research.

And so the first thing I wanted to find out was what information I was going to get back at the end of it all.

Side-note: I have not yet gotten anything back at all. And, even if I had, my fourth-graders from last year are now fifth-graders, so it wouldn’t do me much good anyway.

Anyway – here is what I did: When the kids were out at recess, I Googled: “Smarter Balanced reporting platform,” to find out what kinds of revolutionary graphs and data points this particular test was promising to deliver. And it was then only a few clicks before I had a photo of Joel Klein’s facing smiling back at me:


and with another click or two, discovered that the company that was planning to deliver the data points that would revolutionize my teaching practice, “Amplify,” was owned by Rupert Murdoch – the tabloid guy!

I actually ran down to my principal’s office to inform him of this.

No big surprise – there wasn’t much he was able to do about it.

And so I emailed our superintendent.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” he wrote back to me.

When I taught in New York, and discovered just how bad things were getting, I went into a flight mode of sorts. I left the classroom, did some work in educational research, got another degree, and eventually ended up back in Maine.

But now I had nowhere left to flee.

Joel Klein and everything creepy about ed-reform that he represented had followed me to Maine!

And so I wrote letters to the editor, including one that I sent to Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post that she actually posted. I went to our capital to testify.  I called into radio shows.  I started a blog.  I had our state commissioner visit my school.  I Facebook-friended anyone and everyone that seemed remotely interested in what was going on in our schools.

And as I did all this, it just kept getting worse. The more I researched, the more horrifying it became.

Not only were we administering experimental tests to our kids, but I also discovered that in Maine, we are on front-lines of yet another Common Core experiment – this time as part of an attempt on the part of the Council for Chief State School Officers, the Gates Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to generate proof-points for a “new” (but even that’s not true! It’s been tried before and failed!) model of education called “proficiency-based education.”

And even worse – despite the fact that the our poor state has yet to generate the “proof points” that these organizations so desire, competency-based (another name for proficiency-based) education has already been written into the Senate version of the ESEA rewrite!

This fall, I watched the presidential debates of both parties, hoping that at least one candidate would say something – anything? – to give me hope that soon things would begin to change … but I heard nothing.


And so now I ask, can anyone tell me how bad this is going to get?

Author: Emily Talmage

My name is Emily Talmage and I teach fourth grade at Montello Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. In addition to teaching in Lewiston, I have also taught special education and general education in New York City, including one year at a “high-performing” charter school in Brooklyn. I also have two master’s degrees; one in Urban Education from Mercy College, and another in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have also worked as a research analyst and assistant at the National Center for Children and Families at Columbia and Oldham Innovative Research in Portland.

8 thoughts on “How Bad Is It Going to Get?”

  1. Ben Carson has soundly denounced Common Core (I call it communist crap). He wants our kids educated by our teachers, not the feds; and recommends the “power” over curriculum be given back to them (teachers). Go Ben Go!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: