Guest post from Luanita Klittich from the blog So Much Time, So Little to Do! (solittletodo.blogspot.com)
The biggest question I get as a teacher is, “So what do you think of Common Core?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t straight forward and easy to wrap up in an, “I like it, or don’t like it” comment. Since I’m a teacher, we’ll start with a brief history lesson.
Before Common Core
During the George W. Bush administration, politicians decided that they needed to whip our schools into shape. No Child Left Behind was created which meant schools were expected to teach their students the standards all year. At the end of the year, teachers would give their students the STAR test and each student needed to score proficient, or above, on the exam. If the school did not receive a certain score they were penalized.
This system soon drove many schools and school districts to become obsessed with test scores; a test that was taken once, at the end of the year, was dictating what teachers taught in their classrooms all year. Test prep to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind was being pushed as early as 2nd grade, using scripted programs which teachers were required to stick to them verbatim. Teachers felt as if they were expected to view their students as little robots that were created all exactly the same and needed to perform exactly the same.
When teachers heard that this ridiculous reign had come to an end, we rejoiced. We danced in the hallways and threw our test prep papers in the air (imagine an all 80’s last day of school style). Common Core was supposed to end the emphasis on standardized testing, and one size fits all teaching.
The big differences between No Child Left Behind and Common Core are the standards and the way of teaching.
- No Child Left Behind: Every state created and taught its own standards. What was taught in one state from Language Arts to Math was completely different from what was taught in another state. Common Core: Whichever states were willing to sign on would teach the same standards. The goal is that throughout the United States, all states will be teaching their students the same information and if a child moves from one state to another they will not be at a disadvantage, or one state will not teach it’s students more rigorous material than another (it will all be rigorous).
- No Child Left Behind: Districts became dependent upon scripted programs. School Districts felt this was the most standardized way to teach in order to help all students succeed on the test. Common Core: The curriculum is more focused on group work, problem solving, and critical thinking, doing away with scripted programs and giving teachers control over how they teach these skills in their classroom.
Most of you have probably seen the angry parent letters that have gone viral on Facebook or have had heated discussions with your friends and family. Some of them talking about how ridiculous Common Core is or how teachers don’t know what the heck they’re doing!
Personally, I welcome the change that comes with Common Core and think that it was greatly needed in our school system. I love the idea of teaching students to think outside of the box, to work together, and that there isn’t always one right answer or one correct way to do things. That being said I will be the first to admit that there are a few kinks that need to be worked out.
Most schools have only been implementing Common Core for 1 to 2 years. Going from a teaching environment where you are told what to teach, when to teach, and how to teach it, to one that is completely open to a teacher’s interpretation is a big change. It takes a lot of training and planning for teachers to make this transition.
Then there is the challenge that the students are faced with. School aged children have been dealing with test prep and standardized testing since they were in Kindergarten but now they are being asked to work collaboratively, think critically, explain their reasoning in writing, and much more.
Realistically I won’t be able to see the benefits of common core until the students that are in kindergarten right now reach 7th grade (what I teach) in 8 years. I will receive students that have been allowed to explore, experiment, and trust in their findings (something we had lost with No Child Left Behind). Although the Common Core Standards are very rigorous (often many parents’ and teachers’ main complaint), I think the problems lies stems from a system that has not prepared our children to think critically. With time the expectations will not seem as demanding.
The most important point is that Common Core sees learning as a process, it’s all about the journey, not just the destination. When your child comes home with an outlandish math problem, one of the main expectations is for your child to think through the process. How did you get this result? Why do you think you are correct? How can you check to see if you are correct?
Common Core is trying to get rid of the plug and chug mentality that has taken over our school systems and create a new generation that thinks for itself and questions the answers that they receive.
If you’d like to see what the Language Arts Common Core State Standards are for your child click on this link: http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/ELA_Standards.pdf
Then click on download the standards, and scroll to your child’s grade level.
If you would like to see what the Math Common Core State Standards are for your child click on this link: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/
On the right hand side you will be able to select their grade and the area of math you want to look at. Then you can click on the standards that they have for that particular area on the main screen.