Smudge Reporter 'Opts Out' of Common Core Story

By Dodie Fingerton

Published May 3rd, 2015

Italian Physicists, Enrico Fermi, teaching
Common Core math to third graders.

MENANDS —In a show of either solidarity or total confusion, Albany Smudge staff writer Scott Salad aligned himself with thousands of students who walked out on standardized testing last week, by 'Opting Out' of his own writing assignment.

Ironically, the Pulitzer Prize winning fake journalist had been tasked by his editors to put together a clear and concise piece on New York state's implementation of the Common Core curriculum — the very same educational approach that caused the state-wide walk-out in the first place.

“I clearly wasn't getting any of the Common Core's strategies regarding third grade math,” Salad admitted. “But I bumbled my way through the rough draft, hoping something would click during the editing process.”

With that in mind, Salad — aided by several area elementary school teachers—devised a plan to use the fundamental concepts behind the controversial initiative to determine whether he reached the 500-word limit on his story imposed by his editor.

At the teachers’ behest, he began by drawing tiny rows of circles, in organized rows of 10, to represent each character in his piece. He was then instructed to count the rows, times them by 10 and add whatever number was leftover.

So Salad spent the next three weeks organizing rows of circles. Once done, he determined he had 67 rows of 10, with eight singles leftover. Then, using the base-10 system, he surmised his piece was 678 words.

It was at this point Salad‘s life became a living hell.

“In retrospect, I should have run spell-check before I figured the total,” he said, noting the procedure added seven more characters to his already overly bloated story.

Though devastated, he discussed the matter with the teachers and was told to continue using the base-10 system to calculate 7 + 678. Consulting his notes, the veteran reporter said one teacher instructed him “to simply decompose the 8, because the 8 is made up of parts, then anchor the 7 in the 67 to a 10.”

“That one sentence still haunts my dreams,” a glassy-eyed Salad admitted. “She said that for the 67 to become 70, I'd have to add three to it, and that the difference would be obvious. It wasn't.”

Feeling as if a self-imposed exile was his only option, Salad immediately rented a remote cabin deep in the Adirondacks and got to work deciphering the elementary school teacher's cryptic words.

Then, in late March, the grizzled newsman returned to civilization convinced he had the solution.

Unfortunately, his answer was 688.

Now, months after learning from his 8-year-old son, Evan, that he was off by three, Salad says he's finally coming to terms with his decision to abandon the story.

“Given my fragile mental state, and the fact that there was a lot of subtraction in my future, I knew I couldn’t properly edit the piece,” he said. “Then the 'Opt-Out' movement began and I realized I could hide my stupidity behind mass-scale civil disobedience.”


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