Fargo Teachers Given Common Core "Talking Points" And "Message Map"

This week will be host to one of the hottest debates of the 2015 legislative session. We’ve detailed the Common Core-related events of this week here. People both for and opposed Common Core are passionate about their position, and the bomb-throwing has already been going on for months leading up to the session.

One facet of the discussion will circle around support for the standards among educators, but how clear a picture will lawmakers and the public get of that support? It seems North Dakota’s education bureaucrats have been working diligently to control the message on Common Core coming from teachers.

Last week I wrote about a school district where teachers were asked by their bosses to sign a petition supporting Common Core, even though one teacher who spoke to me said they’d previously been advised to remain silent on the issue. Meaning the school district is apparently letting only officially-sanctioned opinions on the issue from teachers become public.

In response to that post a Fargo Public Schools teacher reached out to me as well, sending “talking points” and a “message map” distributed to teachers by that school district going as far back as 2013. The documents also included a talking points memo from Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

You can read a memo from Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Schatz here. The “talking points” are below.

The clear message to teachers from these documents is that they’d better be on board with Common Core.

I’ve been pretty clear about my ambivalence toward the Common Core debate. I don’t see the standards making much of a difference with students one way or another. At times it seems as though the debate is between preening politicians and bureaucrats on one side, and conspiracy-addled bomb throwers on the other.

But I am concerned about the process. Do we want education policy where the voice is educators is restrained by a sort of iron bureaucratic fist? How many teachers in North Dakota right now feel they can speak out on this issue without fear of reprisal from their bosses?

Not many, per the teachers I’ve spoken with. And that’s unfortunate.

You have to wonder about the efficacy of a given policy when its proponents are so allergic to dissent and criticism.

Common Core Talking Points

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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