February 22, 2018

Common Core: a step in the right direction

Common CoreBy Julie Samrick

 My sixth grader’s middle school spent at least a month communicating the message the leap to middle school means the children put forth more effort, without the meddling of well-intentioned parents. If they forget their lunch, for instance, let them figure it out and they most likely won’t forget it again. We were told at orientation, back-to-school night and in newsletters if our child’s homework is left at home, don’t bring it in. Let them struggle; let them learn.


In recent news stories, countless parents across the United States admit the online grading portals many districts now use have made them neurotic, addicted to checking their kids’ grades, scores on assignments and homework postings multiple times a day instead of the old school way of letting kids know the details first.


If many American children are coddled emotionally, why should we be surprised, then, that many aren’t held to the highest academic standards at school either?


As we lag behind other developed nations in all subjects, fingers point in every direction. Yet if one looks at what kids were expected to know in eighth grade 100 years ago, the answer is obvious. A test dated 1912 has gone viral recently because of its rigor. Eighth graders in Kentucky were asked questions like “Describe the Battle of Quebec” and “How does the liver compare in size with other glands in the human body?” No multiple choice questions, but effort and deep thinking, which are the only jobs our children will know once computers continue to take over rote tasks.


The shift toward Common Core Standards is a step closer to offering American students rigor once more. Common Core is essentially a paradigm shift in the way teachers teach and in the way students learn. Kids will be asked to dig mentally deeper as they cover subjects in greater detail. My son’s fourth grade teacher said it best: Common Core will make kids think.


Common Core Standards will do away with low level thinking questions like Recall the main character’s name. Under the new standards that same question might state: Why do you think the author gave the character that name? The latter begs a more complex answer, which requires critical thinking. 


With 45 states adopting Common Core so far and many, like California, gearing up to implement it fully, there are bound to be trouble spots and aspects that don’t seem pure to its goal, like a planned phase out of fiction for all non-fiction (the value of literature is another topic in itself).


Already strapped states like California are spending billions of dollars preparing to implement Common Core and the money is going towards new curriculum, technology and teacher training. All the money in the world doesn’t equal hiring smart teachers though. Look at what’s happened in Finland, a country that ranks among the best academically even after lagging behind the rest of the world just a generation ago.


Studied in the book “The Smartest Kids in the World,” author Amanda Ripley found one thing Finland has done right is hire smart teachers. They’ve attracted the best and brightest to their competitive teaching colleges and have created a culture “where all teachers are admired,” not to mention compensated well.


In one section of the book, Ripley described a school in Finland as “dingy, with desks in rows and an old-fashioned chalkboard — not an iPad or interactive whiteboard in sight. What (the school) in the small town of Pietarsaari does have are bright, talented teachers who are well trained and love their jobs.”


Shouldn’t that be what we aim for as well? Common Core is a great start, but we need not throw massive amounts of money at expensive curriculum or to train teachers to engage students or to know how to ask the right questions. Hire smart teachers from the start. Then allow them to keep standards high for our children without our meddling and we too might boast the smartest kids in the world.

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  1. Perhaps you have not heard some of the uproar with the common core. 6 states have rescinded their contracts and 22 are modifying it in major ways. Elected officials and parents were majorly sidetracked in the implementation of this. Here’s a place to start: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cd_ruCR4S6s
    And here is another one to watch from a Hillsdale College professor:
    After you look at those, then let me know what you think. I would really be interested, because our school system has spent a lot of time and effort to implement this, but we are thinking of pulling our child out of public school for middle school in 1.5 years to homeschool him. But that may not help because all the TESTS will be geared to this biased curriculum.

    • Thank you for these links, Susan. As a former high school teacher and now a full-time mother of four, I think the essence of Common Core- holding kids to a higher standard and asking them to think critically- is something to embrace. Is it perfect? By all means no. That was the point of my article. The presenters in both videos point out major defects in Common Core. The main point of my article was to move toward hiring our best and brightest to teach otherwise we will be running in circles from one educational fad to the next, wringing our hands and wondering why our nation’s school system continues to fail. I think homeschooling might be the best option for you- I have considered it many times myself and am a huge proponent of it.

  2. This article has ignorance… possibly collusion written all over it. It starts about a “leap to middle school”, but then the next 2 paragraphs make their own leap. Checking online to see your child’s grades (most don’t do it more than once/day, and many do it 2-3 times/week) isn’t coddling a child. Coddling a child is calling the school to yell at them for suspending your child for selling drugs on school grounds. Coddling is always deflecting your child’s blame to someone other than your child when your child is to blame! Coddling is never letting them experience the hard practicalities of life and how quickly it can punish you when you misstep. Allowing them to fail in school is the parents’ fault!
    At 5, 14 years of age, or 17 years old, everything that your child does and doesn’t do is the parents’ responsibility. Common Core removes the parent from the equation to make the children part of a national family. This heralds us back to what the Nazis did to indoctrinate. Common Core is core to an indoctrination system under the guises of an education system.
    Read Susan’s comment above… She has been very helpful to you if you care about your children. Now take a look at the other side of the coin than the ignorance of this page’s substance:
    1. So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored—a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.
    2. The Common Core kills innovation. When it’s the only game in town, it’s the only game in town.
    3. The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money).
    4. The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public (and from most educators) because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do. Common Core Standards fans sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the second meaning. Standardized minds are about as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get.
    5. The world changes. The future is indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a dynamic world may be comfortable, even comforting, but it’s a Titanic-deck-chair exercise.
    6. Proffered repeatedly on one side of the isle in D.C., the right side, is school vouchers. Giving every student a named and serial numbered voucher to be used at what ever school will accept them and transferable by proration if necessary. This forces school systems into the best system in the world… which has made minorities free and the most millionaires the world has ever seen: the Free Market. Free Market forces only work in a Win/Win world. So why not for your child?
    Though the name “Common Core” is being smugly changed to “Common Core State Standards”, it really isn’t state education systems behind it all… It’s Washington D.C.

    • I agree with you about school vouchers, but mostly because the schools that succeed have hired the best and brightest teachers. That was the main point of my article. “Clinging to a static strategy” is what we’ve been doing far too long and asking kids to move outside the multiple choice box to critically think sounds much better to me. As a former high school teacher who held high standards and didn’t dumb down my students, I can’t tell you how refreshing that would be and it might even keep good teachers from being burned out. Is CCSS being perfectly executed? No. Also, I don’t like the federal government taking over our schools either, but there is gross inequity across America’s public schools- perhaps that is what might be curbed here.

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