Blame the Common Core!

 

Since school has started, I have seen all the usual complaints on Facebook about the evils of the Common Core.

I don’t get the math!  Blame the Common Core!

My kid takes test every other minute!  Blame the Common Core!

My kid has too much homework! Blame the Common Core!

I heard that cursive no longer needs to be taught! Blame the Common Core!

Teachers are given scripts to read; they aren’t teaching anymore! Blame the Common Core!

It snowed in November causing a snow day! Blame the Common Core!

Ok, maybe I didn’t hear that last one, but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if I did. Lately all the ails of education are being firmly blamed on the Common Core State Standards. As a teacher, this gets tiring to hear/read.

First of all, I didn’t create the Common Core, I just follow the standards. Secondly, I am not opposed to the Common Core. In fact, I sort of like them. I have enjoyed creating projects and lessons more in the past couple years than I have in the decade before. I personally feel more freedom to just be a GOOD teacher.  Let me break it down for you:

Math is hard.

I’m not a math teacher, so it’s hard for me to explain this part to you. I wrote about the math standards last year. Now that I have a son in Kindergarten, I have been following the math standards more closely. I am pleased that not only is he meeting each standard, but I see evidence of how he is learning it through the work that comes home in his folder. The math, so far, seems like it is doing a better job teaching students what numbers mean and how math actually works rather than having them do rote memorization. I think this video explains the math better than I can.

So many tests!

I’m not sure if this is a state thing or a district thing, but I am not seeing it in my district in Michigan. When parents (and even teachers) complain that assessments are taking over their instruction time, I’m not entirely sure if they mean mandated testing (by the state, district, etc) or if they mean assessments their department has put into place.

I give assessments, but they have nothing to do with the fact that I am following common core and everything to do with it being an end of a unit (in vocab or grammar). Papers and projects also count as assessments. And technically I am assessing my students’ understanding daily whether I put it in the gradebook as an official summative assessment or not.

The only assessments that my students HAVE to take outside of my class curriculum are the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) Test (4 times a year) and the SMI (scholastic math inventory) Test (4 times a year). They also take the state test once a year (in April).

Too much homework!

I don’t know what to tell you here. Homework is not anywhere in the Common Core Standards. In fact, I assign almost no homework.

Homework is an implementation thing. So if you feel your child has too much, you should be talking with the teacher and/or administration.

No more cursive???

Ok, it’s true. Cursive is not included in the Common Core State Standards. But neither is Tuesdays with Morrie and I’m teaching that to my 8th graders. The Common Core are standards that every child in that grade should achieve. That doesn’t mean teachers can’t go beyond the standards. Just because cursive isn’t required in the standards, doesn’t mean teachers aren’t teaching it.

Teacher Scripts.

I’ve heard of this happening. Or at least I’ve heard of districts telling teachers what and how to teach. That is not happening in my district. In fact, I think it’s happening in districts that are panicked about the Common Core and how they can “teach to the test” given in their state.

The teachers in our district (and others across Michigan) have worked hours and hours to actually make learning more student-centered; to create project-based, inquiry-based, and authentic learning for their students.  Since adopting the Common Core in our district years ago (when it was first mentioned in the state), we have actually made more room for good teachers to do good teaching.

If you feel the teachers in your district are being told how to teach–and it’s not good teaching–speak up! No where in the Common Core does it say HOW to teach, only what standards to teach.

Snow Day in November??

This happened here because of a foot of snow. Not the fault of the common core.

Are there issues with the Common Core? Yes. They have become very political, money has ruled (the way it does everything else in this country), and it’s being implemented poorly in some areas.

However, as a teacher in the trenches of it all, dealing with matching what I do with these “new” standards, I like it. I block out much of the politics and bickering about testing and I just do what I do: teach the best I can.

I really believe that is what the majority of teachers are doing. I know my son’s Kindergarten teacher is doing a fabulous job…not because of the common core nor in spite of them, but because he is an amazing teacher.

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I am a part of the Michigan Education Association’s (MEA) Common Core Cadre that works to inform and aid districts across Michigan on best practice of implementing the Common Core State Standards. I’ve also been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan on the subject.

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The best way to be a great student no matter what the standards is to be a great reader!  Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for the children’s book Stand Up!

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. You make good points! I only recently realized that the teaching methods and materials are separate from the common core standards. I think the big problem is with whoever it is that came up with the materials – they are subpar and riddled with errors. It seems that they didn’t understand the concepts but went ahead and developed schoolbooks based on them anyway – and the schools bought into it!

    • I agree with this! We didn’t adopt any materials that were “common core” rather we worked with matching our current curriculum to the standards. For the English department this actually meant less tests (yay!) and more papers and projects that are authentic. I think the districts that race to buy “common core materials” are wasting their money…and the talent of their teachers.

  2. I think that there will always be challenges in programs – especially one that involves the education of so many. I love your perspective as a teacher who is living with these standards and seeing the benefits. I think it stands to reason that if teachers are comfortable and encouraged by the results, that their students and families will be too.

  3. Thank you for this. You said exactly what I’ve been trying to explain – I teach high school English. 🙂

  4. I think of you every time I see a complaint, and I want to argue with the person. Heh. Thanks for enlightening us, seriously. And my third grader is learning cursive and it’s just about the cutest thing ever. 🙂

  5. Great post Kate! I would like to comment on “So many tests!” I teach is Chicago Public Schools and this is NOT a Common Core thing at all. In CPS, this is a school board thing. Our students are tested to death. Most of doesn’t really count for much and I do lose a lot of instructional time to standardized testing. Parents should be angry. They’re anger is just misdirected.

  6. I think complainers need to get their facts straight before they complain. It appears to me that people confuse standards with execution. Thank you for your very clear explanation!

  7. My concern is that TEACHERS understand the common core, but “just parents” do not. And, sad as it may be, most parents are not going to sit down and “study the math standards.” They are just not going to.

  8. Homework makes me insane. I see the value in having some, but the amount that my kids receive is detrimental to learning and serves the sole purpose of robbing them of free time and fun.

    I believe in life long learning and that education is paramount but something is broken here.

  9. Like anything in education and elsewhere I see positives and negatives behind it. My complaint is with the complainers that I know whom all seem to be conservative not in the classroom nor have childreni n a classroom and complain about the government taking over the schools. They have no clue about anything about the common core. RIDICULOUS. But then again, everyone knows more about our jobs than we do.

Trackbacks

  1. […] There has been a lot of debate and concerns about the Common Core, and I’ve always loved Katie Sluiter’s easy-to-read-and-understand essays on the subject. She tackles some pertinent and recently debated points in Blame The Common Core! […]