by David Safier

The national Common Core Curriculum is getting blasted from the right because it's an attempt by the Feds to twist innocent minds and from the left because it ups the ante on high stakes testing.

I have to admit, I'm not the most informed guy in the world when it comes to Common Core, so I thought I'd give readers a chance to chime in. Leave your comments. Let's see what kind of discussion we get.

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What will happen differently to students whose family structure does not lend itself to consistent attendance? The child whose parent shuffles from apartment to apartment each month, or from school to school, district to district, state to state is not uncommon. When I began teaching 6th grade in 1974 I had 36 students on my class roll, 18 of whom moved in or out, or in/out in/out in the course of the year. They ranged in reading ability as tested from pre-primer to 10th grade. Just before I retired, there was a 4th grader who had been registered in 10 schools in 3 states since he started kindergarten. There can be mobility rates of 40% in some schools. Children may move from both parents, to one parent, to grandparents, to friend’s house in the course of the year, with homework fled to the winds. Even if the same standards are used across the country, teacher quality and class speed of instruction/completion will vary. These children, too young to legally drop-out, have emotionally dropped out long before 16. Society must accept its responsibility in the economic factors that frequently lie behind all of the previous experiences and quit blaming the teachers for everything.

If all schools do not have the same technology, the same quality teachers, teachers treated as professionals, the same training, the same dedicated leadership – the schools with less of everything are going to have students who make less progress and test worse. But that’s the truth with AIMS and will be the reality with any test. ALL students have a better chance of actually understanding and using math, of actually reading and comprehending, IF we get teachers and schools to really study what the CC is asking them to teach, the progression of the learning, and engaging our students in their own learning. The world is changing, and we do ALL our students a disservice by not educating them in a way that more likely prepares them for this changing world. We absolutely need to find equity in schools, in social services to keep kids learning, etc. But that is a fight no matter which standards!

Here’s what’s getting our wackadoodle friends all ‘het up.

So much misinformation and outright lies. If only we could keep ’em in one-room school houses, using slate boards, Bibles and dunce caps.

Here’s a comment swimmom sent me via email because she’s had trouble getting her comments online:

From swim mom: I had to weigh in on your question about Common Core Standards. I agree with “tired of being a bottom feeder”…As an educator in a second grade classroom, I can tell you that we are learning fractions RIGHT NOW, and the children in the class not only understand this concept, but can use it in a way that is relevant in everyday living….in fact, I dare say, that learning fractions has been the section of our math curriculum that all of them have seemed to grasped equally well, the high achievers and the kids that usually need more time to grasp whatever math concept is being taught at the time. I’m very proud of them!

I agree that common standards for all would be a great beginning in bringing equality and leveling the field for all students, no matter where they live.In fact, this one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for me, and one that will yield the best results. We have to be able to compete on a GLOBAL scale…this begins that process with a baseline of core standards that all students must grasp to compete in this world. AZ will be on par with CT, MS with NJ…giving those that previously had a marginal education, one that compares with other higher achieving states. That’s a GOOD thing!

I believe that if the bar is set high, the students will not only reach that bar, but those that work hard will exceed the bar. I see it all the time.

I think this is a great start and we need to keep tweeking it and refining it as we progress to make learning more interesting, more engaging, showing students how what they’re learning is relevant and applicable in the real world. Most people learn by doing…not sitting in a class reading chapters of a book and testing. We need to engage them to become lifelong learners, amazed and curious about the world around them…so they want to find answers to questions on their own and constantly want to attain more knowledge. THAT’S the kind of students they ALL should strive to become! That’s what we need to foster in them as educators, and THAT’S what’s been lacking, in my opinion.

Teaching to a test is a HUGE failure and a mistake of enormous proportion…turning kids AWAY from loving to learn and into kids that have anxiety about learning, and associate learning with punishment and passing a test. I could go on and on….it’s SO detrimental and underminds all that we say we want for our kids.

I usually agree with “Bess”, but in this case, I must disagree. She sounds like she’s making excuses why the poor 8 year olds can’t POSSIBLY grasp this concept, when I have seen that they can! They are understanding this and showing they understand this in real life terms/scenarios that makes it easy for them to understand.

I could go on and on….but you might want to take a look here: http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards

It’s a truism that students from higher income families generally score higher on achievement tests than students from lower income families. Forgetting about whether the goals of the Common Core, and even its guidelines, are commendable, won’t the more difficult tests geared toward the higher expectations widen the test/achievement gap between the haves and have-nots? If that’s the result, the conservative “education reform” groups will reap the harvest. They’ll be able to scream “Failing schools!” even louder and have data to back up their assertions –which means more fuel for their push for vouchers and charters, and ever more reason to defund “failing schools.” “Why spend money to promote failure?” they’ll ask.

I agree with everything you said. Kids in the town I grew up in will have no problems.

Still these standards will be very hard for a good chunk of children (see my comment above), and I’m almost positive that Pearson will make out like a bandit.

The standards themselves are excellent. Bess1919 gave an excerpt from the third grade standards, and they ARE doable. Most teachers who have been introduced to the standards, (including the instructional shifts that make them effective) like them. What a teacher is expected to teach within the instructional year (and what students are expected to learn) is actually achievable, as opposed to the the standards the CC is replacing. But those instructional shifts are key, if we really want to make a positive change in education.

The standards describe a path and ultimate goal of our graduating students to be ready to move on to college, on-the-job-training, military service, or other post-secondary pursuits. They DO NOT give guidance to schools/districts/states on how that path must be adjusted for special circumstances – ELL or individualizing education plans to meet special needs. As before, that is up to more local control.

One challenge is that our teachers are NOT generally receiving the professional development they need. Often, this training can be provided at very, very little cost, via ADE and online resources. However, school and district administrators are absolutely swamped with a variety of inane, often conflicting mandates. When there are too many priorities, none are accomplished. Our administrators and leadership at ADE need to determine priorities and get focused. There are just not enough hours in the day, week, or year to do what is being asked. And legislators need to defer to education leaders, not extremist crackpots. We have critical thinking courses that might be of help there.

This is a copy of what I wrote on an earlier post, but it’s relevant.

I would just ask that you look at Common Core as a set of standards, apart from the testing/buy-my-textbook-program, tie-to-funding garbage.

The Common Core Standards are excellent teaching/learning guides. Generally, teachers like them. They are focused, reasonable to actually teach/coach in a school year, challenging. Worthy.

For students/families, there is the continuity between/among districts or states, important in our mobile society.

Schools and districts do NOT need to buy new series to adapt to Common Core, though salespeople are beating down the door. The greatest cost is for continuous professional development/planning time for teachers – though that should be true at anytime in good school communities. And CC recognizes that our students (and teachers) need to be using technology confidently and critically.

Now, fund equitably and keep politics, power, corporate control out. Yes, I’ll keep dreaming. But don’t blame great standards for the corruption that will glom onto them.

Here’s a sample of 3rd grade math. Keep in mind we’re talking about 8 yr olds.

2. Students develop an understanding of fractions, beginning with unit fractions. Students view fractions in general as being built out of unit fractions, and they use fractions along with visual fraction models to represent parts of a whole. Students understand that the size of a fractional part is relative to the size of the whole. For example, 1/2 of the paint in a small bucket could be less paint than 1/3 of the paint in a larger bucket, but 1/3 of a ribbon is longer than 1/5 of the same ribbon because when the ribbon is divided into 3 equal parts, the parts are longer than when the ribbon is divided into 5 equal parts. Students are able to use fractions to represent numbers equal to, less than, and greater than one. They solve problems that involve comparing fractions by using visual fraction models and strategies based on noticing equal numerators or denominators.

Develop understanding of fractions as numbers.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.1 Understand a fraction 1/b as the quantity formed by 1 part when a whole is partitioned into b equal parts; understand a fraction a/b as the quantity formed by a parts of size 1/b.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.2 Understand a fraction as a number on the number line; represent fractions on a number line diagram.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.2a Represent a fraction 1/b on a number line diagram by defining the interval from 0 to 1 as the whole and partitioning it into b equal parts. Recognize that each part has size 1/b and that the endpoint of the part based at 0 locates the number 1/b on the number line.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.2b Represent a fraction a/b on a number line diagram by marking off a lengths 1/b from 0. Recognize that the resulting interval has size a/b and that its endpoint locates the number a/b on the number line.

http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/NF

I have some questions. Is there organized resistance to the neo-liberal reformers? What is the alternative to Common Core? Is the problem Common Core or is it how it’s used in the neo-liberal, pro-privatization, pro-test system?

Lots of higher level thinking and precise vocabulary. Math concepts are introduced at earlier grades. As always, children in high poverty areas, and ELLs will have a hard time keeping up.

The reformists either don’t know or prefer to ignore that every child has a different developmental map.

The testing aspect of education has gone awry.

Higher SES zip code. Parent support. No problem.

Other kids. Not so much.

But no one asks us.