Archive for April, 2014

Apparently, an English teacher in Colorado has resigned because of the Common Core Standards. She appeared on Fox News April 14, 2014 (http://video.foxnews.com/v/3467730139001/teachers-resignation-letter-citing-failed-system-goes-viral/?playlist_id=903354961001#sp=show-clips) and reported the following:

1. First, she cited her 3rd grade son’s experience by saying, “the changes at the elementary school level are just insane…”

Insane? Let’s consider the math standards as I am not well versed on English/Language Arts Standards (and, in the TV segment, they do not differentiate between math and ELA):

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

These are certainly rigorous, challenging, advanced…standards that we have not had in place in years past. But insane? What is insane about making sense of problems, constructing arguments, modeling, etc.? The teacher says that her son is “struggling to keep up to where they want him to be.”  It is not insane to challenge children to learn at high levels of expectations. Furthermore, we have to allow for some time of productive struggle as we transition to the new standards. I admit that the transition will be challenging…but that doesn’t make anything bad. In fact, challenges are often good once we overcome a difficulty, positive challenge.

2. The news anchor asks the teacher, “what is it about the changes…how has the Common Core changed teaching?” Her response:

  • It is more specific…
  • It has certain things they want us to teach…from kindergarten all the way up to high school…
  • It has certain skills they want the kids to have at a certain time, certain age, certain grade level…
  • Kids aren’t made like that…they are all different…

Wait a minute…standards that are specific and have things to teach, skills to have? That’s what standards are for! They give us something to aim for…high expectations to strive to meet!

3. She says that her job is to help students to think for themselves, help them to find solutions to problems, help them to become productive members of society. Again, she is right but this is an argument for the value of having rigorous standards. Again, I point to the Standards for Mathematical Practices listed above…they support the idea of thinking, reasoning, and problem solving!

4.  She also says that she has a problem with the Common Core Standards promoting a “teach to the test” focus in schools. This is a major misconception…people confound standards with assessment and curriculum. These are separate, albeit, connected entities. If she wants to argue against high-stakes testing, then have at it! But don’t confound rigorous standards with assessing these standards nor with curriculum based on standards.

5. In the interview, the news anchor pushes back on the “standardized tests are bad” issue by bringing up the fact that the US compares very poorly to other countries especially in math and science. The teacher makes a claim about standardized state testing (again confounding assessment with standards). Let’s be clear…there has been standardized testing for decades! This is nothing new because of Common Core. In fact, the standardized testing that is to accompany the Common Core Standards has only recently (this month) been field tested in the US. Most of us don’t even know what the new assessments will look like! She continues by saying that “…it has become about a right answer rather than a way to think.” I would agree that the old standards and accompanying assessments in most states did this. The Common Core addresses this very clearly and puts the focus on ways of thinking rather than memorizing and regurgitating procedures and facts. Again, I point to the Standards for Mathematical Practices. Also, read the content standards. You will see expectations like “understand…” and “compare…” and other ways of thinking that are much higher on most critical thinking taxonomies.

Please read the standards for yourself…separate the standards from assessment and from curriculum (although they do have to be connected)…then see if there are such “insane” problems with the Common Core Standards.

Scott