“I think the changes have been most difficult in the English classroom because when I first started I could choose any novel, any text. I had far more of a choice and I was only limited to what my colleagues were doing. As a working group, what we all decided, even within that I had free range.”

The ability for this teacher to have a real impact (the original reason she got into teaching) on her students has continued to diminish. New “innovations” in the classroom have led to a loss in the personal one-on-one relationship between her as a teacher and her students.

“Guided reading is where we all discuss a book, after agreeing on what they want to read. Comprehension comes because they like the book and like discussing it. So when I do guided reading their test scores skyrocket. But now we have this computer system. We went away from the relationship part in guided reading to going to a computer and every teacher I know hates them. Teachers get into teaching because they like the relationships.”

Just as discussed by Ellie Rubenstein, a teacher from Illinois, this Wyoming teacher also notes the detrimental effects on teacher-student relationships she has seen in teaching in her 11 years in the classroom – and adds she would make an important change to improve education:

“I just want to be able to have my creativity back. If I were to pick one thing- that would be it, allow me to teach like I know how it should be done.”

Her thoughts on the implementation of the Common Core also sound very similar to those of Christy Hooley, the teacher from Green River. She noticed in late 2009 that staff development meetings were suddenly being centered on the Common Core.

Once you’ve been in the field, you come to realize that every few years there comes the “thing” that is going to chance everything – it’s like the cure for cancer. And we all know it isn’t going to work and this (Common Core) isn’t going to work either. Anyone who has been in the field for longer than 5 years is skeptical, because you’ve seen the huge dump of resources and training and then you see all the stuff down the hall in a box covered in dust that once was “the greatest thing.”

Judy Helmick, a 16-year veteran of teaching who ended her career in Dubois, Wyo., can also testify to the changes in public education. From 1973 to 1981, Judy took a hiatus from teaching. When she returned to the classroom in the fall of 1981, she was amazed at what she found:

“What I noticed was the programs – I was in a farm community – and there was all this special education stuff and special reading programs, there was so many programs. And kids were being pulled out of the classroom. Everything became about labels. Everyone was getting labeled, and the more labeling that happened, the more federal money the districts would get.”

Helmick also has very strong feelings about the Common Core Standards, and what they will mean for children in the classroom.

“First I first heard about the Common Core there was all this talk about how it would make everyone college and career ready and that is was rigorous. I don’t like the word rigorous; it’s a pretty ugly word if you look it up. Everyone would be “common,” the same. That just sent up real red flags because every child is different and learns at a different rate. I don’t like the idea of assuming the same format for every child. You have to make changes based on the child.”

Through the past half century of political posturing for control over education, it is Wyoming families and teachers like Judy Helmick, Christy Hooley and others that have come out the clear losers. Test scores remain flat, education spending continues to skyrocket and the once bedrock principle of local control is all but extinct or merely given lip service by state and federal politicians (or openly denounced by progressives.) More and more control is being gained by bureaucrats far removed from Wyoming families and their children’s classrooms. Implementation of the Common Core is just another in a long line of government’s empty, failed promises. And through it all, parents and teachers are held captive in a system they can neither get out of nor work to change.

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