It Begins: Common Core Syndrome

Anxiety attacks. Bursting into tears. Vomiting. Headaches. Self-mutilation.

Sounds like someone suffering from any of a few mental disorders, but this list of symptoms is coming from a clinical social worker and psychologist in New York state. These symptoms are being displayed by children and the cause is Common Core.  Here is the testimony from Mary Calamia at a Suffolk, NY forum:



Read the text of Calamia’s testimony.  One excerpt worth highlighting:

A recent Cornell University study revealed that students who were overly stressed while preparing for high stakes exams performed worse than students who experienced less stress during the test preparation period. Their prefrontal cortexes—the same parts of the brain that we are prematurely trying to engage in our youngsters—were under-performing.

We are dealing with real people’s lives here. Allow me introduce you to some of them:

…an entire third grade class that spent the rest of the day sobbing after just one testing session,

…a 2nd grader who witnessed this and is now refusing to attend the 3rd grade—this 7-year-old is now being evaluated for psychotropic medication just to go to school,

…two 8-year-olds who opted out of the ELA exam and were publicly denied cookies when the teacher gave them to the rest of her third grade class,

…the teacher who, under duress, felt compelled to do such a thing,

…a sixth grader who once aspired to be a writer but now hates it because they “do it all day long—even in math,”

…a mother who has to leave work because her child is hysterical over his math homework and his CPA grandfather doesn’t even understand it,

…and countless other children who dread going to school, feel “stupid” and “like failures,” and are now completely turned off to education.

The early portions of the Common Core (K-3) have been protested the strongest in part because they are the most destructive.  The standards set in these years are age inappropriate and are asking kids to jump through hoops they have no hope of reaching even with a ladder. It’s breaking the spirits of the best and the brightest. The standards do not even remotely line up with the documented cognitive and developmental stages for children. A quick refresher of Piaget’s stages in relation to a First grader of an age range of 6 to 7:

Second cognitive development stage: The preoperational period (two to seven years)Preoperational Phase (two to four years)

Increased use of verbal representation, but speech is egocentric. The beginnings of symbolic rather than simple motor play. Transductive reasoning. Can think about something without the object being in front of them by using language to describe it.

Intuitive Phase (four to seven years)

Speech becomes more social, less egocentric. The child has an intuitive grasp of logical concepts but these are crude and irreversible. At this stage, kids believe in magical increases and decreases – their sense of reality is not firm and it is their perceptions of the world that dominate their judgments. In moral-ethical realm, the child is not able to show principles underlying best behaviour. For example, they can’t understand the reasoning behind the rules of a game, but can understand simple do’s and don’ts imposed by authority.

Third cognitive development stage: Concrete operations (seven to 12 years)

There is now evidence for organised, logical thought. There is the ability to classify many tasks, order objects in a logical sequence, and comprehend the principle of conservation. Thinking becomes less egocentric. The child is capable of concrete problem-solving.


Now, consider these standards (below) for First grade, remembering you are talking about 6 and 7-year-old children:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1a Print all upper- and lowercase letters.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1b Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1c Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He hops; We hop).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1d Use personal, possessive, and indefinite pronouns (e.g., I, me, my; they, them, their, anyone, everything).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1e Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1f Use frequently occurring adjectives.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1g Use frequently occurring conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, so, because).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1h Use determiners (e.g., articles, demonstratives).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1i Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., during, beyond, toward).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1j Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts.

The list starts out o.k. then turns into a set of skills these kids won’t be able to grasp, much less master, until much later. These kids are just learning to be proficient readers, they are building vocabulary and this should be a time for increasing their confidence, not tearing it down. They are concrete thinkers, not abstract thinkers.  As Piaget outlines, much of their language acquisition, writing and reading skills are founded in concrete terms and have trouble with deductive logic. Kids in First grade arguably are still in the pre-operational stage.

Consider also that there are comprehension components and writing components to the ELA (English Language Arts) portion of Common Core as on top of this list. Part of the writing component involves getting kids to write persuasion pieces requiring abstract thought and inference creation. That is something that kids won’t have until Piaget’s 4th stage of cognitive development… at 12 years old. Small wonder kids are melting down right and left. These standards are not just asking a kid to swim before they can walk, they are throwing them in the deep end of the pool and marking them down when they drown. This is child abuse. We now have COMMON CORE SYNDROME.


How In The World Did This Happen?

How did this happen? That’s what I asked myself as I became more familiar with the early ed portion of Common Core. Well, would you believe that no early education professionals or teachers were part of the 135 person “committee” that assembled the standards? That’s exactly what happened. When the standards reached light of day, it was too late. States had already adopted them.Early education professionals “shocked” by what they saw.

Recent critiques of the Common Core Standards by Marion Brady and John T. Spencer have noted that the process for creating the new K-12 standards involved too little research, public dialogue, or input from educators. The Washington Post reprinted part of an article by Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, which lays bare the lack of input by early educators in the creation of the standards:

Nowhere was this more startlingly true than in the case of the early childhood standards—those imposed on kindergarten through grade 3. We reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.

It appears that early childhood teachers and child development experts were excluded from the K-3 standards-writing process.

When the standards were first revealed in March 2010, many early childhood educators and researchers were shocked. “The people who wrote these standards do not appear to have any background in child development or early childhood education,” wrote Stephanie Feeney of the University of Hawaii, chair of the Advocacy Committee of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators.

In 2010, 500 early education professionals penned a joint statement outlining some of the major flaws in the K-3 Standards and calling on the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to suspend said portion of the standards. To date, they have refused.

Quick Related Comment

The NC General Assembly’s Common Core Study Committee is meeting next week for the first time. We’ve heard rumblings that Common Core loving Jeb Bush’s crew are just going to happen to be in Raleigh for it. Convenient. Parents are organizing to show up and be seen even if we will not be heard until the next meeting sometime in early January. If you know someone in North Carolina who has a child grappling with Common Core, please consider passing this article on to them.

The meeting is happening Tuesday, December 17 at 1:00 PM, 643 LOB. More details in the link below or stop by


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