I am not a teacher, and don't mean to offend anyone who is and therefore might have (or likely has) more insight about the difficulties pertaining to implementation of these new standards. In fact, I am hearing that the teachers were not prepared by the school system here in Maryland and it is making role out difficult. It is simply happening too quickly. We can all agree, this needs to be addressed yesterday. However, what I struggle with is the suggestion that there are populations of kids to whom the common core standards do not apply and that they are inherently a bad idea:
"This is a set of standards that does not reflect the experience of many groups of students served by public education, does not reflect the concerns that many parents have for what they want to see in their education, and that really doubles down on a testing-and-punish regime that has proven to be the wrong approach to improving public education" Stan Karp, a former high school teacher now with New Jersey's Education Law Center and the liberal reform group Rethinking Schools. The Republicans, as well, are concerned that the standards will destroy "...the system of freedom as we know it." - Glen Beck.
I am dying to know which life experiences they are talking about. Are there kids that ride in rodeos all day or belong to the circus, whose education would be better focused on animal husbandry? Is this a roundabout way to make a commentary on children in low socioeconomic neighborhoods? And if so, do children in these neighborhoods really have such experiences that make in unnecessary to have elementary, middle, and high school education focus on:
- Making sense of problems and persevere in solving them. (Can totally be applied to animals and running away from gun fire!)
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (Again...)
- Constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.
- Modeling with mathematics. (Ok, maybe not so much, unless you are also using physics at the circus/gang meeting).
- Using appropriate tools strategically.
- Attending to precision.
- Looking for and making use of structure.
- Looking for and expressing regularity in repeated reasoning.
- I am stopping now because this is just the tip of the iceberg and the list will be too long.
And heaven forbid we actually test what we teach. There must be a secret, sneaky way to gauge whether our teaching is effective or if a student has a problem other then objectively measuring it...
We are doing these students a disservice if we do not hold them up to the same expectations we hold up the kids that go to schools in less disadvantaged neighborhoods. What are we teaching their parents to think of their potential? What are we teaching them to believe about themselves? We are setting them up to fail because we are expecting them to fail.
I get it that as parents, we play a big role in our kids' education. There is a lot of work that goes on, at least for some kids, outside of school. My oldest is on autopilot and has been from the start. My middle one, not so much. She needs a lot of help. If I did not know how to read, and was not working with her in the evenings, she would struggle to succeed in school (she is already struggling, but this would reach new heights. So, I get it. Not all children have parents that can read, or parents that are available. Some are working multiple jobs and childcare consists of hours of TV because that is affordable. I would argue that under these circumstances, in-school learning is even more critical. These children need more help, not lower expectations.
The above statements have left me wondering if the commentators have read the new standards. The focus is not only on the foundation of the language arts and mathematics, but being able to take that information and use it (for example at said rodeo or in context of outrunning gang violence). As in, create a population of critical thinkers, where marketers don't define what time of the year it is - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St Patrick's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Back to School, and Labor Day - all with sales! - Mother Nature does. Perhaps this new force of thinkers would be able to decide you can't invent a new developmental stage, "tween," to encompass all 8 to fourteen year olds and decide for ourselves that an eight year old and a fourteen year old are not the same in any remote way. Perhaps we can create a population that is able to imagine bigger things for themselves and their children then filling a hollow void with "stuff," stifling creativity, going bankrupt, and killing the planet. If all the children in America actually grasp these standards, can you imagine what can be accomplished? We could totally RULE THE WORLD. Because, that's the goal, right?
There is no better place to start then in the schools. Train the teachers so they can do their job, for Pete's sake. Embrace the common core for the common good.