February 20, 2014
The New York legislature is preparing to elect four members to the Board of Regents. Often, incumbents are simply re-appointed, but this year 22 candidates are vying for those four spots. And Common Core is issue number one. Windsor native, Carol Mikoda is running on an anti-Common Core platform and is one of four candidates endorsed by the advocacy group, New York State Allies for Public Education. She recently retired after teaching middle school English for 20 years and just received her PhD in education theory. WSKG's Monica Sandreczki sat down with Mikoda at her home in Windsor to find out why she’s running.
CAROL MIKODA : Well, when I was in my 8th grade classroom and when I saw policies- we always talked about things coming down the pike from Albany- I always said that’s what the state education department is sending us. Well it turns I found out recently it was the Board of Regents that really was my boss all those years. And so when I saw that a group called State Allies for Public Education had only endorsed three candidates but there were four positions open, I said I should be that 4th person. Because when I retired it was to become an education activist and so this is just the kind of thing I was looking for.
MORNING EDITION : You’ve made it very clear that you’re opposed to the common core standards. One report that I saw, even saying that you want to do away with them entirely, is that correct?
CM : I have no problem with standards; I'm a classroom teacher and you have goals and standards in your classroom. New York State had some very fine learning standards, especially in ELA. We adopted them from the National Council of Teachers of English, which made perfect sense, to go to my professional organization and use those. Common core learning standards were developed with a faulty premise that schools were broken and that Common Core learning standards could fix them. Schools are not broken. Schools may have problems but they’re not broken and need fixing by new standards.
ME : Well, instead of promoting Common Core. What would you propose instead?
CM : I see taking some of the time and resources that are being given to this Common Core roll out that’s been so flawed for some things that would be helpful like teacher-mentors for new teachers. If we’re worried about the quality of the new teachers coming out, then why isn’t there a career track for someone like me who’s taught many years, but doesn’t want to be a principal, why couldn’t I be a mentor-teacher? We are already giving our pre-service teachers a good deal more clinical time. Time in class observing, but, following them once they get a job, having someone work with them almost at that level, at that same close level would also be helpful.
ME : At this point, Common Core is being rolled out. It is being put in place. If you’re elected, how do you anticipate working with other board members who are in favor of these Common Core standards.
CM : I’m a pretty persuasive person, so I’m hoping I could become a presence on the board that they could respect. I would probably be voting ‘no’ about a lot of things if CC stayed. I would just be a small voice voting ‘no,’ but I would be out there meeting with taxpayers and parents of frustrated children and that’s what I would have to do morally.
ME : You’ve mentioned more than once. I mean, casting this as a moral issue.
CM : I have to. I have to do something when I see mistreatment. I think it’s abusive. I think one of the quotes that affected me a great deal when I first saw it is “teaching as a political act.” There comes a point in your career when you get sort of meta-cognitive andethical issues become more important than the day-to-day slogging. You get up, you go to school, you teach, you have lesson plans, you have papers to grade, but there’s a reason why. And so, when I started to have these visceral reactions of what was happening in my school, I thought a lot about what’s ethical here. “Is it ethical for me to stay here, not make any changes, help at least a hundred more kids go through my classroom and get whatever they can out of it or should I stop?” And I got to the place where I said, “no I need to stop. I’m gonna go back to school, get the letters after my name that will make people pay attention to what I say.’ I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do something about this.
ME : Well, Dr. Carol Mikoda, thank you so much for talking with me today.
CM : Thanks, Monica. It’s been a pleasure.