It's not possible to conclude that Lynne Rigby doesn't care about education.
A product of Seminole County Public Schools, Rigby graduated from the University of Georgia in 1995 and returned to teach elementary school in the Florida district outside Orlando she called home as a student for so many years. She and her husband sent their children through that same district as well.
Image source: AP/Lincoln Journal Star, Francis Gardler
"We stayed here so our kids would be blessed with a similar educational experience and opportunities," she noted.
But Rigby has been seeing a really big problem — and she detailed it in a meticulous 2,800-word letter to politicians and educators that took her six weeks to complete.
In it she explained that after a school year that was "totally disheartening" — as well as many attempts to navigate the myriad curriculum and standardized testing issues that grew only more maddening, perplexing, and convoluted as time wore on — she and her husband decided to pull their youngest kids from elementary school in the district they'd loved for so long.
Why? So they could have a fighting chance to learn.
And while Rigby's letter — which elicited such a reaction that it was highlighted by The Washington Post — highlighted a number of issues, one culprit is the inescapable "elephant in the room," she writes: Common Core.
Or more accurately, "The Florida Standards which are aligned to Common Core," she clarified. "The materials remain the same." (The Post pointed out that the "new Florida Standards in math and Language Arts were approved earlier this year after the state pulled out of the Common Core State Standards initiative and devised their own, which actually look a great deal like the Core.")
"It sounds awesome when you say that kids are on the same page and we’ll be developing critical thinkers; they will rise to the challenge of more difficult standards.," Rigby said regarding Common Core. "And every kid will be career and college ready at the end of high school and all on the same page? SIGN ME UP.
"Sure. Walk that political line. It’s rhetoric. It sounds fantastic when you gloss over it like that," she added.
"Shouldn’t I, as a 40 year old mom with an education degree, whose current job is to write instructional lessons for adults, be able to take a test for 8 and 9 year olds in a matter of minutes without thought or 'oh, wait, that’s not right?!' moments? Yes, I should, but that was not the case," she wrote.
Rigby pointed out that "about 90%" of the assignments her son Jackson brings home has consisted of "worksheets, done in class and done at home. Everything I’ve seen this year is stand-alone, segmented. Nothing is deep, there is no time for kids to even consider what is interesting to them, because you’re on page 168 today and you need to get through 170 by tomorrow." For Rigby it's "a joke, a joke being played on our kids. On MY KID, I’m not cool with that."
[sharequote align="center"]"...start thinking outside of the box...Put creativity back in learning and teaching."[/sharequote]
She also called out President Obama, saying his Race to the Top "dictates these tests and Common Core through funding. But education is not a race – it is a journey – why must we hurry it along?"
"I am asking you to start thinking outside of the box," Rigby added. "Stand up for our kids. Put creativity back in learning and teaching. Someone has to take the initiative to save the schools and a generation of kids – why not you? Why not us? Who is in a better position than one of the highest performing counties in the state?"
Then a dire warning: "Teachers are leaving the classroom in droves. Parents are in an uproar. The arguments are varied and most are valid. If you stick with this curriculum and these high stakes tests, I fear you will be creating an even wider divide between haves and have nots. Parents who can afford it will put their kids in private school or homeschool them. The gap will grow; not shrink."
Check out Rigby's full letter here.
The Post noted several abbreviations only an educator of her pedigree would understand:
VPK is voluntary prekindergarten; FCAT is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, the state-mandated exams that have been used for years for “accountability” purposes in school districts across the state but which are being replaced by a new test aligned to new Florida standards and being designed by the American Institutes for Research, or AIR...EOCs are end-of-course exams. SCPS is Seminole County Public Schools.