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Teacher expresses frustrations with Iowa Core

Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 11:28 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 11:41 a.m. CST
(Ty Rushing/Newton Daily News)
Amy Prime is a second-grade teacher at Berg Elementary School and has expressed her concerns with the Iowa Core. Prime recently wrote an editorial discussing her concerns that went viral amongst education blogs.

Last July, the Iowa Department of Education required all districts in the state to fully implement the Iowa Core. Locally, Berg Elementary School second-grade teacher Amy Prime has expressed concerns with the Iowa Core in a series of editorials and explained her reasoning in a recent interview.

“I would say the problems aren’t so much with the actual core itself, as with the implementation of the core,” Prime said. “Which means how administrators are either being forced or choosing to implement them with teachers, which means they feel the pressure to make sure that the Iowa Core is being met.”

“They are dictating to teachers exactly how they have to teach, when they have to teach, what they have to teach to make sure that every little bit of (Iowa Core) is being taught,” she continued. “It stifles teachers’ autonomy and creativity for sure.”

Prime’s latest editorial entitled “Common Core kills the dinosaurs — again” talked about how she had to eliminate a popular unit teaching her students about dinosaurs, due to it not totally aligning with the core. Prime’s story went viral amongst education blogs and social media groups and was even republished on Dr. Diane Radvitch’s, a known education advocate and author, personal website.

When asked if she could bring the dinosaur unit back into her classroom, while still meeting the core’s standards, Prime seemed open to the idea but said there are limitations.

“All of the things that we taught in that (unit) would match up with the Iowa Core,” she said. “The problem is, when districts chose to bring in program that is purchased and marketed as covering the Common Core, then they insist upon teachers following that without deviation and fidelity.”

“So that there really is not time do something as in-depth and as enriching as that,” Prime continued. “When you are required to spend 90 minutes to two hours a day on a specific program that they purchased, because they believe that it covers everything common core. There’s only so many hours you get with these kids.”

The Newton Community School District uses the “Everyday Math” and “Reading Wonders” programs for its elementary grade level students.  In a previous interview with the Daily News, Elementary Educational Services Director Jim Gilbert expressed his support for both programs.

“It shows that for the last three years, the time and the effort teachers have put into teaching mathematics differently is working and it’s making a difference in the performance of students,”   Gilbert said of the results the district have gotten from “Everyday Math.”

He had also expressed high hopes for the “Reading Wonders” program.

“In the area of reading, we are just starting that now,” Gilbert said. “It’s a brand new initiative, we’ve redefined our literacy blocks, we’ve studied the best practices associated with structures around reading and writing and we’ve adopted brand new materials.”

Although the district’s scores have risen in math and are expected to grow in reading as well, Prime asks at what cost to teachers and the educational system?

“It narrows the curriculum, it makes you focus on certain things,” Prime said of the core. “It shuts out other things. A huge majority of our day has to be focused on teaching reading and math. But what does that do for science, what does that do for physical education, what does that do for the arts, what does that do for social studies and history and all of those things that are important to a well-rounded education? It just narrows the focus down and it hurts kids.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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