9.15.2014

A Public Teacher's Thoughts on the Common Core (As Told with Doctor Who GIFs)

 Let me preface and say that I'm not a licensed teacher as of yet, but I am a current student teacher with 100+ hours of classroom participation under my belt, as well as some 1,000,000,000+ hours of common core studying under my belt. That's an exaggeration, but since I'm a future teacher, and likely one to be teaching in a state that has adopted the common core, it's something I've studied a great deal of. A big ol great deal that could fill several Olympic swimming pools and those are HUGE.

Let me also say that I've learned about the common core in my college education classes, and for the past 4 years of my education, I never once had a teacher force their beliefs of the core upon me, nor did they tell me there was only one right way of thinking. Each one laid out the facts on the table and provided me with multiple resources for learning about the core and let me decide for myself what I think about it.

And one last add in. What I'm about to say is backed by actual people who know things and research and text books and articles by the smart post times and what not... All of these things I've been reading for the last 4 years but of course didn't actually write down what it was. And I don't have time to go find it. What I do have time to do is find a lot of Doctor Who gifs that correlate to my message.

This is a very hot topic, one that is politically heated for goodness knows why, but it is. I know a lot of people have strong opinions on it, and I do too. Right now, I want to share with you what I have learned, and what my opinions are on this matter.

First and foremost: The common core was NOT DEVELOPED BY THE BEAUROCRATS IN WASHINGTON D.C. I can NOT say that enough. The common core was developed by research teams, by current school teachers, and by parents. And yes, I know some teachers who were part of the development process. The misconception of it being something the government made up comes from the fact that the government looked at it, said it was good, and told the country they liked and should do it, and they'd give them two extra thumbs ups on their pay checks for doing it. (And by pay checks, I mean the money the state uses for education in general).



There's been a lot of hate over the fact that states that adopt the common core receive federal grants and funds that other states do not receive. This is not to say that the other states are losing money for not adopting it. It just means they're not getting anything extra. If people have a problem with this, they should look at the general laws of the country.

Here's how those laws go (in regards to school, at least).
Schools develop their own laws.
Those laws must be in accordance with district laws.
District laws must be in accordance with state laws.
State laws must be in accordance with federal laws.

 This is just to say that no one school can develop a law that is clearly against federal laws. I mean... a school can say "No tank tops" while clearly it's not a federal law that the entire country can't wear tank tops. But a school cannot say "Teachers must always abuse their students", because that's against federal law. Nor can schools just totally bypass federal laws like conveniently forgetting to leave out that in school violence is a crime. Now where the whole government funding comes in. With any single law a school breaks, any law that also breaks federal law, the ENTIRE STATE loses their educational funding. So the fact that states failing to adopt the common core loses simply additional grants and funds that weren't there in the first place shouldn't be anything too surprising. That's how this country works. Sorry 'bout that.

I'm so sorry...



NOW. What's my favorite thing about the common core? Honestly, the mathematics standards. The ones that receive the most hate. The ones that the most parents complain and joke about to me. And here's why I like them. I'd like an honest poll of how many of you majored in math in college? Lemme count... right. Hardly any of you. Now raise your hand if you took a great deal of math courses in college? A few more, but still, not that many. NOW! How many of you graduated high school, went right into college math courses, and felt right in step with what was being taught, didn't feel like it was ridiculously hard or anything. Pretty much none of you. That's not because college is demanding, folks. That's because the state standards for mathematics were consistently not preparing students for college. Students were full years behind of where they should be. The solution is not to lower the difficulty of college math courses. What good would making school easy for everyone do? Probably no good. I shudder to think what would happen if that was the case. Imagine the entire being of civilization collapsing or something like that.



Scary.

So they upped the difficulty of mathematics and I'm surprised and disappointed in our country for how wrong that was for us to do. How dare we ask more of our students. If we've learned anything from the progression of the human race, it's that setting extremely low expectations gets us the right results.

In case you didn't catch it, that was sarcasm. This is wrong.



It's ok if your kid is better at math than you. It's ok if they're doing things on their homework that you never learned. Pop quiz: How many of you learned how to fix the world's energy crisis? Right, no one. It'd be great if somewhere along the way, our little kiddies learned that.

What's also gained a lot of laughter is the way mathematics is being taught. I've met a lot of people who thought it's outrageous that we're trying to teach kids that it's ok to do

456+792 

as 

400+700+50+90+6+2. 

I have yet to meet a teacher who says that's the only way to do math. It's a WAY to do math.

Fun fact: There are literally infinite ways of solving that problem.

And if one of those ways clicks with one of those kids, and suddenly that kid is actually LEARNING (shock and horror!) and doesn't just give up on math, then hey, I'd say the job is done. Good job teacher. (Another favorite is the outrage over people teaching the add up method, where you try to figure out 30-17 so you add 10 to 17 and get 27, then add 3 to that and get 30, so 10+3=13 and that's your answer... surprise, that's what cashiers used for ages. It's not an outrageous way of doing math. You'd be surprised about how COMMON IT IS.)



But no teacher is required to teach math that way by the common core. The common core wants students to understand place value and addition and subtraction and multiplication and division and blah blah blah... giving no strict way of achieving that goal.

The people who DO tell the set way of achieving that are districts. I'm pretty sure that there are very few districts in the state of Utah who use the same way of getting to those goals. (I'm talking about mathematical programs, used by school districts. If you don't know what your school uses, look at your child's math text book. There it is.) If you don't like the way your child has to learn math, then I suggest looking into alternative methods, and the next time school board is up for election, do your research (for once) and put someone into office who will make sure things are taught in a way you want them to be taught. And make some suggestions!

^^^THIS COULD BE YOU^^^


The fact is, we live in a really sad country. We live in a country where you go to dinner parties and "Oh haha, you teach math? Math was so hard for me, I pretty much quit doing it after 4th grade because I didn't get it" happens all the time, but if you ever heard someone replace every "math" in that sentence with "reading" then people would look at you like something was wrong with you. So why is it ok to do that with math? Answer: It's not ok. 


We need to stop making it ok.


And so is math.




Random rant there.

Now the literature core, or the speaking/literacy core or whatever you want to call it. Let me tell you this. President Barack Obama didn't sit down in his bedroom and pull his favorite books off the bookshelf and say "EVERY CHILD IN THE COUNTRY MUST READ THESE BOOKS! NEXT STOP, THE WORLD!"

In fact, no one did that. Not the president, not the federal department of education, not your dentist, no one. Ok maybe Mrs. Smithjohnsowilson in 11th grade AP Good at Reading and Other Stuff did. But if you don't like what your kid is reading, then they don't have to read it, and that's a fact. If you can tell the teacher based personal beliefs why your child shouldn't be reading a certain book, then do it. And your child will receive another book to read that accomplishes that same goal. If your teacher tells you no, you can't do that, then go to the principal. Exhaust your resources, and if at the end of it all, your kid is still stuck reading that creepy Romeo and Juliet book that you don't approve of, here's a secret. You can sue. I don't recommend doing that because it's expensive and messy and stressful for everyone, and you really should pick your battles (I mean, just look at your front lawn. Talk about humiliating.)... but yeah you can sue.

The common core isn't telling anyone what to read. That's the main point of this all. You, as parents and legal guardians of your under-age children, have a voice in your child's literacy education. You can't use this in math because I doubt there's a religion or organization out there in the entire world that thinks it's morally wrong to teach 2+2 to children, but literacy is a bit more wibbly wobbly.



 I know as a teacher, I'll probably have my class read books. But if you, as a parent, aren't cool with your lone child reading Dr. Seuss, say something, and I'll try to find something else that teaches them the core standard we were learning as a class. We'll work something out.

That's nice Clara. We're trying to read though, put your important leaves away.


One last misconception about the common core. The funniest joke I have EVER heard was when someone said to me, 100% seriously, "My child deserves more than a common education!" HAHAHAHA WHAT?



This sentence alone is proof to me of why we NEED the common core!

What the common core is not: Some education the kings of the land developed to educate those filthy lesser COMMON peasants, because they didn't deserve the best.


What the common core is: Something (almost) all states have in common. 

I've heard, far too often, of people who moved between states and missed out on entire YEARS of education, because what they'd learned in the first state state hadn't yet been taught in another state, and what they hadn't learned in the first state had already been taught in the other. That's not going to happen anymore. When a 3rd grader moves from Maine to California, the teacher is going to know what they've learned already.



Now for one last complaint. SAGE testing. I'm certain when they first invented the Scan-tron, there was a buttload of confusion and test scores dropped for a while. Why? Because it was new. I think the tests before then involved chalkboards and chalk and writing essays and stuff and the tests before then involved throwing your child into the wilderness with nothing but a sharp rock. But when has testing with a scan-tron ever proved that a student can DO? It proves that they can memorize facts. It proves that they can read questions written in English on a paper. It doesn't prove that they can actually do what they need to do.



That sharp rock scenario was far more do-y than a scan tron. SAGE testing, I'm sure, is not the solution to all of the world's problems. So far it hasn't cured cancer (at least not yet!) But what it IS is manipulative. It's far more hands on than a pencil and a sheet of paper.



It will hopefully show that students know how to do things, now. And yeah, it's gonna take a while to get used to, but eventually we're gonna get used to it, and people are gonna look at scan-trons like they're floppy disks. You're probably mad about all the tests your kid has to take in school anyways, and yeah, I'm not super happy about that either, but that's not what this is about right now.

So bring on the hate. I'm sure this post is gonna get a lot of heat. But what made me sad was a recent study showing that the majority of Utahns didn't know what the common core is, and that there's a really vocal body of people who hate it (who are in the minority, and none of them are educators...) teaching people things about it that are wrong. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to actually go to the common core website and read the new standards. They're not lying about the standards they've put up there. Those standards are what people are teaching now. And if you can get a hold of them, read the old standards for your state. You'll find they're not too different, and maybe, you'll find the new standards are better.

RANT OVER!

(Congratulations. If you made it to the end, you just read 2,000 + words. Good job, you! Gold star.)


1 comment:

Britt Hanson said...

I don't necessarily have an issue with the common core standards and I pretty much agree with what you said about them. BUT what I do have an issue with is the stuff that is buried in the legislature. I've done some research on that and that shiz is scary (collecting data and stuff on your child, among other things). But the standards are fine. So. Yeah.