Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Common Core

Tonight, the commissioner of Education, Dr.King, in New York, is hosting a forum on the Common Core standards that are slowly being phased into the education system. He was in the building where I work today. I am actually watching the forum being presented as they are doing a live-stream of it. While not every single state is implementing these standards, there has been a lot of outrage against it in New York.

To be quite honest, I told someone the other day that I actually feel sad to be an educator lately. The  types of tests that today's students are being required to take in order to graduate and because of federal regulations compared to the type I had to take is just ridiculous. I see so many kids struggling daily with their math concepts. Kids who are generally doing well are going down the tubes. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard "I hate math."

What exactly is the common core? To be honest, everyone I talk to is not quite sure. Essentially, they are wanting us to educate children to be college-ready. Well...have we not been doing that all along? They want the levels of complexity to increase as the students progress from grade to grade...hasn't that been happening all along? I work with 7th & 8th graders. They're now learning how to write a research paper that young...some of them can't even write a proper sentence! I get that people higher up in the state want the best for the kids of New York and each state but there are SO many other issues that need to be tackled.

Last spring was the first year that the tests for NY assessments in grades 3-8 reflected these new standards. How successful were they? Only 31% of the students in grade 3-8 passed or surpassed the new tests. That is just a disgrace. The passing mark set was way too high. I proctored both of these tests for students who are classified in Special Education. I, someone who has a college degree and two Master's degrees, could not do any of the problems on the math test. Not because it has been awhile since I took math. Because I did not understand what was being asked. If the adults are having trouble understanding, the kids are definitely going to suffer. The results were such a drop from previous years. I have seen these "modules" and instructional booklets that teachers are to use when teaching lessons. It really says "2 minutes to pass out papers. 5 minutes for questions." One math teacher actually said "I feel like I am rehearsing this as a script if I were an actor. It does not feel natural." Teachers are able to explain things differently to each student. What if one student cannot comprehend what they are being taught from a packet? Yet, they can get it from a verbal answer from the teacher. You're telling me that if you have questions and it goes past 5 minutes, you can't ask anymore? That probably isn't the case, but sometimes it takes longer to explain something. As an educator, I would rather spend more time on a concept and until a child got it, than following a "script."

Every interview I have gone on asks "What is your best common core lesson?" and to be honest, I had no idea at first. How did common core even fit into the foreign language education curriculum? I was not even sure. I did as much research I could until it felt like my eyes were going to fall out of my head. From everything I read (and continue to read), it seems the literacy standards is where the foreign language standards fall. I can see how that is with reading comprehension, being able to pull information from the passage(s) and being able to produce proof, whether it is a short answer or an essay format.

Do I think common core is the best for our students? No. I think they are suffering. I think the students are going to look back on their junior high and high school experiences and look at it as a trainwreck. My 8th graders are already taking 3 high school credit bearing classes (math, biology and their language). If they pass language, they can drop but obviously I strongly advise them not to. But they wanted this year's 8th graders to take the state math test in April, the alegbra regents in June and a common core regents as well. WHY? Why repeatedly test them on something?

Most of the teachers I work with don't agree with it and they hate it. Just let us TEACH. That's why we went into this field. We love the area we are certified in. We love working with children and want to share our love of math, science, social studies, languages, etc with them.  No teacher should be rated based on their students' test scores whether they are ineffective, effective or developing. Kids have off days. Kids don't test well. That doesn't mean the teacher is ineffective.

I really look forward to reading tomorrow's paper and seeing how people react to this. As hard and sad as it is to be an educator in an ever changing field (we all go in knowing that policies can change and will change), I do NOT regret it one bit. I LOVE my job. I LOVE working with students. I could go on more about this but I'll just leave you with this:


  1. Girl, preach it! After having to implement Common Core into my student teaching (after learning about completely other standards my entire college career) I have a very similar opinion as you. One of the main reasons that I'm teaching at the school I'm at (a private International school in Costa Rica) is because I wanted to actually be able to implement the things that I learned about in college. I have felt so blessed to really discover how to meet my students' needs and teach them concepts in the most authentic way possible and am concerned about how challenging the transition is going to be for me coming back into the US!

    Lauren @ How Beautiful Are The Feet

  2. This is so interesting to me. Being out of school for several years and not having kids myself, I don't know much about Common Core except that there is a lot of hate for it. So, I love reading the perspective of people who are actually in the schools having to work with it. There's a lot of rhetoric about how we need to keep teachers accountable and "get rid of ineffective teachers." And I'm sure there are some teachers who aren't great. But I do know a lot of teachers, and every single one of them have a passion for their kids and for teaching them. They would do almost anything to help their kids learn and pass their tests. But 1. some kids just don't care about learning. It's hard to teach a kid who refuses to learn; and 2. you're right-- some kids just don't test well. My husband was one. He's so smart and can figure anything out by DOING it. But he's never going to be able to spit out facts when there's timed pressure. I completely understand that it's a hard thing to balance-- making sure kids are getting taught well vs. letting teachers teach. But, I think we should err on the side of giving teachers more freedom than more regulation from bureaucrats who aren't in classrooms everyday with kids.