It was exactly one year ago today that I decided to start blogging. I was frustrated about the pushback to the Common Core, a set of standards that I was embracing and LOVING in my classroom. I am just as frustrated today. I read popular children’s book authors posting ridiculous things about the standards… I’ve heard community members say that we should “overthrow” the Common Core because it makes kids like zombies and all the same (I’m not sure exactly how). I have heard teachers saying it is stressing their students out. I have heard parents say that the Common Core dumbs things down for students. And still… I wonder, have they read the actual standards?
After talking to a number of people and reading articles (and their comments) I think these are 2 big things at the center of the Common Core debate.
1.Prescribed, scripted district programs and curriculum-
It seems that some school districts have ordered prescribed teaching programs that teachers are required to teach from, sometimes exclusively. Could it be a knee jerk reaction by a district, making sure that the teachers are meeting the standards? I believe that teachers are smart, teachers are professionals, teaching is a craft- and whenever teachers are handed their plans it’s like they become a substitute in their own classrooms in a way. There is little choice and few opportunities to develop new curriculum or bring in new resources that meet the standards. That is a surefire way to take the excitement and engagement out of teaching and learning.
Some people are worried that they can’t help their students (especially with math), because it’s too complicated. I think this might be, in large part, due to the program the district chooses in some places. Some of the insane problems I have seen posted online and shared on facebook and the like, are absolutely ridiculous. I guess you could say that kind of problem fits within the standards, but those types of “27 step first grade math problems” just don’t have to be what people are making them.
Some people are confusing standardized testing with the standards. Politically, I get that there is a big connection. I can see why parents and community members would be concerned. Academically, however, when those 15 first graders are sitting in front of me, my goal is to teach them how to learn. To coach them as they explore and discover. None of the teachers I know are cramming for a test any more than they were with the state test (Connecticut Mastery Test). Are there concerns about the testing? Sure. I am always concerned when there is a huge emphasis on one measure. It is important to remember, however, that the standards don’t ask for a test. The standards are just that… standards. I wonder if people realize that there were standards before these… and ours in Connecticut actually weren’t much different than the Common Core in many ways. There were also big standardized tests before the SBAC and like assessments… I took them when I was in school.
So what have I learned?
I AM SO LUCKY! I am lucky to work in a district where we are referred to as “practitioners of education”. I work in a district where I am allowed to decide how I deliver the standards. Do we have curriculum guidelines? Of course! But I can meet the standards through a favorite picture book (in fact, they’re PERFECT for teaching Common Core Standards) or through a poem. If my students are exceptionally interested in animals, I have the freedom to choose to use materials, text, and resources to meet the standards using this topic (I don’t think I’ll ever understand why some people are complaining about informational books.. the kids LOVE THEM!).
So… here’s what I have decided to do. I will unpack the standards one by one. I’ll do at least one a week, and i’ll share how I am meeting these standards in my first grade classroom. Maybe it’ll shed some light on what the Common Core can be.