Common Core: Does a One-Size-Fits-All Approach Really Work?

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September 27, 2016 by Good Teachers Work Hard

By now, most of you have heard of Common Core – the latest band aid for the severely injured American education system. In theory, it makes sense. Nationally unified standards for each grade level and periodic testing would ensure that all American students are learning information at the same pace. If a student were to transfer to another school district across the country, the standards for learning in that grade would be the same. Sounds great, right?

Behind that façade, however, are underlying issues that must be addressed. Here are a few that come to mind:

How will a one-size-fits-all approach work in districts that are already years behind other districts?

There is no argument about the inequality amongst American schools. Poorer school districts simply do not have the resources available to assist their students, particularly with regard to technology. One cannot expect students without computer access to compete with students in wealthy districts that have ample computer labs or a 1:1 laptop program. Some schools don’t even have Internet access yet. What is the plan to address these inequities when states are cutting their public school budgets?

Common Core requires testing – and lots of it. These tests are mainly produced by one company. It appears that someone is making a great sum of money from these tests. Is that true?

Absolutely! Pearson Education prints and distributes most of the Common Core testing materials to schools. The United States spends over $500 billion dollars per year to educate students in grades K-12. Instead of that money being funneled into schools, a significant portion is given to Pearson for tests.

Since Common Core was implemented in a vast majority of states (45), the Federal government must provide states and schools with a curriculum (or at least a road map) for teachers to follow, right?

Wrong! The Federal government has left the implementation of Common Core up to the individual states and schools districts.

Without a road map, the Federal government must have provided some teacher training to help teachers understand and best implement Common Core in the classrooms, yes?

Wrong again! I have spoken to hundreds of teachers in multiple states about Common Core. Some had an hour of in-service time dedicated to learning about Common Core, but pedagogical information was not provided. They were merely informed that they would have to start teaching in a new way. Some teachers had no training or information provided at all. A lucky few had a half day or full day of training on the new standards and were fortunate enough to even see a textbook aligned to Common Core. However, because the vast majority of states implemented Common Core at the same time, textbooks and workbooks were sent to many schools well after the beginning of the school year.

What is different about the Common Core way of learning, as opposed to the type of learning that had been going on in classrooms?

The premise behind Common Core is that students will actually have to understand concepts, as opposed to memorizing facts or how to simply calculate a problem. In math, for example, students are expected to understand multiple ways to solve a problem. However, there have been times when the concepts of such math problems caused more confusion than necessary. Most of us can solve 7 + 7 easily. But Common Core wants students to be able to add using connections to the number 10 (because everything is easier when adding with the number 10, right?). Check this out:

common-core-math-1

Instead of allowing students to simply add the numbers together, this problem expects students to break down the second 7 into its components of 4 and 3, thus allowing the student to add the first 7 + 3 (from the second 7) to make ten. Because adding 10 + 4 is far easier than adding 7 +7, right?

One problem (of many) with this logic is that 7 + 7 is a predecessor to 7 x 2, so what knowledge recall do students have when learning multiplication? But that’s okay. Common Core encourages (and in many cases, mandates) the use of calculators in their standardized tests starting in 3rd grade, so memorizing the multiplication tables will soon be a thing of the past if Common Core continues.

Here’s another example for your reading enjoyment, to prove that the problem above was not an isolated incident:

common-core-math-2

What is the future of Common Core?

I don’t claim to be psychic, although I had a strong sixth sense while still in the classroom. With no mention of Common Core in last night’s presidential debate, I have to wonder if this latest band aid will be ripped off quickly, or will it, like so many other educational policy decisions, be ripped off slowly and painfully? I am convinced, however, that Common Core is NOT going to heal the underlying wound.

For additional reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/pearson-takes-big-hit-in-_b_7792202.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-bill-gates-pulled-off-the-swift-common-core-revolution/2014/06/07/a830e32e-ec34-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24019-one-size-does-not-fit-all-fighting-common-core-curriculum

http://www.excelined.org/common-core-toolkit/old-standards-v-common-core-a-side-by-side-comparison-of-math-expectations/

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