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Common Core Who-Dun-It Mystery

As a member of Teachers Pay Teachers, I often read and share on their Seller's Forum.  As the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) become more "common", many teachers are asking about things being omitted or totally left out.  Let's start this discussion with what the Common Core supposedly is.  CCSS is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards establish common goals for reading, writing and math skills that students should develop from grades K-12.  Although classroom curriculum is left to the states (which actually had no input into the process), the standards emphasize critical thinking and problem solving and encourage thinking in-depth about fewer topics.

With that said, this is the way I perceive these standards.  When I started teaching, (I have been at it for 30+ years) the curriculum was a nice, juicy apple. Included were subjects like spelling, geography, history, and cursive writing.  In addition, areas such as effort and behavior were evaluated. I can't remember ever giving a state or national test, but I did have to teach art, music and P.E. The majority of the children went home for lunch where some adult was waiting for them.  Later, the arts were added to the curriculum and qualified teachers were hired to teach art, music and P.E. (Thank goodness!)

Then came the slicing of the apple.  One test was introduced and given each year.  (We gave the ITBS.)  Objectives were written that were different from the textbook, and more children were staying at school for lunch.  As time progressed, additional slices of the apple were removed as "before and after" school programs became necessary for children and free lunches became common place.  In addition, more than one test was required because now the district and the state wanted data.  History and geography became social studies, and phonics and spelling were replaced with the whole language approach.  I was directly a part of our district's benchmark test writing project where much money and time were devoted to the test that would reveal all, make teachers better, and students smarter.  Of course, none of those things occurred, and the money wasted could have been better spent on teachers who really make the difference in the classroom.  (By the way, all of those assessments are now gone.)

Many advocate that the CCSS will become the tool that can successfully turn around education.  Let's remember that these standards are merely the minimum each grade level is to master.  Think of the CCSS as the core of an apple; there is no "meat" on the core, just the left over part of the apple.  The basics are there; but teachers need to add the meat, but will they, especially since the high stake tests that are imminent will most likely only test the core?  My question is: How much testing will be required; how often, and at what expense in money and time?  And who will pay the price?

I did some of my own reading of the CCSS, particularly those for the "key" grades of K-3.  Yes, the CCSS requires the multiplication tables be taught through 10, but does that mean a teacher shouldn't go to 12?  I personally want all of my algebra students to know the doubles through 25 because it makes finding the square root so much easier.  Since the multiplication fact is in the student's head, no calculator is required!  I also observed that money is not mentioned anywhere in the common core for grades K-3 except in second grade.  Covering that standard is going to be a daunting task for 2nd grade teachers if students have never seen it before.  (I did find the money standard in grades 4th, 6th, and 7th, and after that, money was considered Consumer Science.)  In addition, there is no standard for patterns in kindergarten which I find quite disturbing since all math is based on patterns.  Time and introductory place value have also been deleted.  If students do not get these basic concepts in kindergarten, it is obvious they cannot grasp the more complex ones in later grades.

As I read the many different responses on the TPT Forum as well as various articles about the Common Core, I realized that many teachers are viewing them as the all-in-all.  If that is all that will be taught, education is in BIG trouble.  I would suggest reading a rather thought provoking and eye opening article by Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and she is co-author of the book Opening the Common Core.

My primary concern is that the Common Core will become so focused and fixated on a limited number of standards that little will be left of well-rounded education except a very inadequate and flimsy core. If a teacher only follows the common core and nothing more, students will miss important building blocks in between. I believe education is an exciting and engaging lifetime journey, not a final destination or a binding contract with any government. I trust and hope parents (families) are the constant in this equation (a math word!) while schools and teachers are the variable. (both will change over time) How can any test adequately measure that?

Here is a ten minute video which explains the Common Core so that
anyone can understand it. Check it out at: Common Core


The Meek Moose said...

I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts. I teach in Virginia, one of the very few- possibly two, actually- states that has not adopted Common Core. And probably won't for that matter. We have our own set of standards with their own problems. And it's testing season, so we're grumbling about them much more.

After reading your post though, I'm kinda feeling like I'm glad Virginia hasn't joined up. We've packed too much in, but at least we haven't skimped somewhere.

And I find myself envious of your juicy apple experience. But- I'm working on making that part of my classroom reality. I'm not pinning myself down to the standards, I am going to explore off the reservation whenever I can.

The Meek Moose

Pamela Kranz said...

I miss the juicy apple. That's when teaching was really fun. We also administered (and I took) ITBS. But really, I already knew what my students could do and what they needed.

The last remnants of your apple is a scary thought, but the way things are going, I guess it has to get worse before it will get better.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Scipi.
Desktop Learning Adventures

Michelle Williams said...

I think many educators are missing the big picture. Our educational system has become substandard when compared to other countries. CCSS is more about giving our student a better chance to compete in a global economy. As it stands right now our students are competing with other students who can out think them and are better prepared in math and science. If we don't change our education system then we are setting our students up for failure and the US might as well become a third world country.

Renee said...

What a wonderful blog post! I also am a member of TeachersPayTeachers and am frankly a bit disturbed by the amount of "jumping on the bandwagon" I have seen among the product listings.

I am worried that teachers .... especially those with less experience.... are going to just ignore all those things they inexplicably left out of the common core standards.


Learning Mom said...

Thank you so much for your insights! I agree with most everything you've said. I hope that teachers will keep in mind that the CCSS are the minimum requirement and still provide rich learning experiences for their students.