Disclaimer: If you are looking for a well-researched blog post, this is not it. If you are looking for a post written by someone who is impartial and who doesn’t let her emotions get in the way of her opinions, this is not it. This is not organized, likely not going to be proofread (and why not, you ask? Because often when I proofread, I delete things. Things that I really had wanted to say. I’m more raw and real, and ME, when I don’t edit. And, as always, you can take it or leave it. It’s all good.), and realistically contains a misconception or two. It might be idealistic and impractical. It might be downright wrong. But, it’s my brain right now.
“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” (Henry David Thoreau)
So, I’m thinking about the Common Core State Standards. Because today we had the first of many in-services about them. And I have thoughts.
Like: I’m all in favor of trying to get everyone on the somewhat-same page. Trying to make things more universal. Striving for progress. I like the hypothetical idea of a step-by-step staircase and structured, linear, hierarchy. I love making reading and writing part of all of the content subjects, instead of an isolated part of the day. Kind of like how Social Thinking shouldn’t be taught solely in an isolated once a week environment, but should be infused, embedded, and reinforced in all contexts.
But I feel the anxiety rising in me when I think about the other parts.
Like: the people behind the Common Core development have acknowledged that they are making things harder. That they are continuing to raise the bar for our students, and they have actually said something along the lines of, “Standardized test scores are predicted to fall, not because students are doing worse but because we’re making tests harder.” I cannot wrap my head around that.
There are all of these statistics and graphs and facts to show how many kids in our country are not at grade level, and how many are not even at basic level, which is several grades below their grade level. And it’s a lot of kids. The logical solution to me, then, is to alter our education system, go with some new approaches, work on training our teachers to teach in a way that kids learn. Not to raise the bar even further. It’s not as though raising the bar is going to make our kids say, “Oh! The bar is higher? Okay, I’ll just jump even higher to get there!” This isn’t a motivation thing, on the part of teachers or students. And, raising the bar further, increasing expectations, doesn’t do anything to ensure that teachers are teaching in a way to get kids to achieve those possibly unrealistic standards.
A lot of the philosophy around the Common Core seems to be related to what skills students need to survive, and thrive, in college and in their careers and beyond. But it still seems illogical. I support the idea of being able to comprehend complex text, of being able to create, synthesize, evaluate ideas and concepts, of being able to think out of the box. I get how those skills are necessary for college, for graduate school, for succeeding in many careers. The problem is, I don’t know that continuously placing more and more demands on kids who are already falling apart, is the answer.
We are so stuck on preparing kids for careers and college, but WHY? Are there really so many kids who fail as adults, and is it truly because they didn’t learn enough in school? (Aside from contributing factors like ESL, low-SES, etc.) And – we turned out fine. Granted, I’m an intelligent woman, but still – the things I was required to know and achieve in each grade were not the demands being placed on our kids today. And I went to high school, and I didn’t take all AP classes, and I went to college, and I didn’t get straight A+s, and I still took the GREs, and I didn’t get a perfect score, but I still went to graduate school and I did well and I have a wonderful job and I am successful. The people my age, the people my parents’ generation, we’re okay. So what is this disconnect that is making us believe that all of a sudden schools are failing to teach us what we need to know for life? (Again – aside from teachers who truly are not competent, overcrowding in schools, lack of access to materials, etc.)
More and more time is being spent on making our kids work harder, learn more, develop skills earlier and earlier. Kids have more homework, less time for play, less time to be a kid, less time to just…..BE. Mental health issues are increasing, kids are more anxious, depressed, hyperactive, inattentive, vulnerable than ever. More and more kids are diagnosed with learning disabilities, as they are not achieving grade level content. More kids are being referred for special ed services, as they aren’t reaching these arbitrary “grade level” benchmarks when they “should”. As early as kindergarten. In my core, I don’t think this is all a coincidence. In my core, I believe this is all connected. And that’s not research-based, that’s not a substantiated claim, and I am not claiming it to be.
What about all of the studies showing that kids learn best when they are allowed to play, allowed to naturally explore? What about studies showing that a lack of play is so detrimental? That sitting at a desk all day is actually not the most effective method of teaching. Teaching, knowledge, learning, they can all be defined in a myriad of ways. And our education system is stuck in one set way. In a one-size fits all. And, might I add, all of these issues are pertinent for general education students. Adding in special education to the mix is a whole other post for another day.
The bar continues to rise. Demands continue to increase.
But at what cost for our kids?