I know you are thinking an opinion piece from me, no surprise! I have heard much outcry and confusion lately about the Common Core and our failing education system. I would like to weigh in. So here is my two cents…well actually twelve. The Common Core fundamentally, in it’s essence is a good thing. Yes I said it. You heard me. It is attempting to create overarching themes per grade, to ask students to make cross curriculum connections, to ask our students to go deeper. But here is where it falters…drastically. It fails our Educational system in four key areas. 1. It was never field tested therefore it was inappropriately implemented across the country. What “they” are asking our teachers to impart is at minimum two years developmentally ahead of what is grade/age appropriate. And each year “they” push it a little more. This is not just my opinion. I hear this from all the teachers and administrators with whom I work. 2. Teachers are not trained to teach how/what the Common Core is asking them to teach. Our teachers whether in undergraduate or graduate level programs are not taught to teach from a child centered, constructivist, creative problem solving methodology. If you are going to ask them to change the way they teach then change the way you teach our teachers. The brilliant teachers that I have coached were this way before their education. 3. Thanks to the Bush Administration and No Child Left Behind…We are still teaching to the test. More and more standardized tests are being forced upon our schools. The current formative assessment is testing from an old paradigm while we are attempting to teach from a new paradigm. Teachers are desperately scrambling to ready kids for testing so they can get high scores and not have their Title 1 funding cut and shut down. Our teachers are overburdened and panicked by this. How can they go deeper when they are scrambling to go wider? This is contraindicative to teaching what and how the Common Core is asking of our educators. Memorization and rote is what the testing is looking for yet the common core is asking creative problem solving, higher order thinking and big idea making from our kids. Testing needs to shift to reflect the outcomes of what we are asking our teachers to impart upon our students. 4. The way our classroom time is structured there is no way our teachers can go deeper into subjects and impart true authentic lasting knowledge. 50 minutes per subject leaves students fragmented and more often skimming the surface of the content. Which leaves our teachers not knowing what our students really know and what they don’t know. Yet the Common Core wants us to explore the depths of content. Well then “they “ should lend the support and instill a new semester model to allow this to happen.
Research has shown that our brains are evolving exponentially which directly coincides with what the world is asking of our brains. The industrial era is over. Teaching children from an industrial model of memorization, rote and simple applicable formulae is over. The information era is here and our brains are being asked to think big idea/ big picture while simultaneously making connection on the most subtle and complex levels. Our schools need transformation not reformation. The common core is attempting this. It has good bones but no musculature to support it. As a country if we do not begin to “produce” humans who can match the new world demands we will falter as an economically viable nation. We already are. We are drastically sub-par in educational performance when compared to other 1st worlder’s. The writing is on the wall folks. The very- near in the future- generations need carry great amounts of emotional intelligence to navigate an increasingly fast moving, complex and compact world. We need to raise cultural and worldly creatives who understand their metacognition, can solve complex problems out of the box and co-create in dynamic group structures. Is our educational model supporting this? No not yet…but we can all agree that it needs to be.
And again, thanks to the Bush Administration our schools are now governed by statistical analysis. NO matter what socio-economic sector, no matter what American subculture or predominant demographic…no matter, it’s all about scores. So the upper middle class, English speaking schools test high and get more funding. See what kind of meta-message is being sent here. See why our schools are panicked and still pushing to teach to the test. No Child Left Behind was that administrations failed attempt to show a caring face toward Education. It was entrapment and now our schools are being dictated to from a national level. When you give a not so smart administration the power to create big change…this is what you get. It is all connected to funding. If schools don’t make the scores, funding “justifiably” gets cut and can be spent on other agenda items. Our children’s education should not be conditional no matter race, economic status or location. To me that is unconstitutional at the deepest level.
When the “administration” of this country shifted several years ago they heard the outcry from our educators screaming that they needed help and guidance with this new model thus more money and more fanfare was thrown at the problem. That was a great thing. It allowed people like me, like the Kennedy Center, like Trike Theatre, like so many brilliant Arts Integration Specialists to get funding to help out these schools and guide them. But healthcare was also in crisis and I knew we were only a few years out from shifting funding in that direction. I hit it on the mark. 4 years later funding for Curriculum reform is shrinking when it is needed most. We as a nation are not so good at slow and steady. We want immediate change and immediate perfection. “They” gave us a platoon of horses but never followed through on providing the means to ride them. “They” got distracted by the next bright shiny object…healthcare. And here we are as a nation of parents and caregivers and educators wondering what in the world happened to our education re-form.
And please don’t turn this into a political platform because I will shut this down. You are missing the point. I don’t care what party you abide by I am speaking of governmental administrations manipulative relationship to education. The bigger political picture…now that is another story all together.
So where does this leave us? Awareness of these issues are increasing outside of the schoolyard, finally. Change is happening, slowly. Certain states were so against the Common Core that they lobbied to have the right to accept or decline the use of this. They won. Although I don’t think refusing to implement the Common Core is the answer (we were failing before this) I do feel that it is our right to stand up and be heard and not be forced nationalistically to do something that may not suit us locally. That is a slippery slope. Some states, like Arkansas, have adopted the new Standards and Frameworks for Teachers. This is a good thing. It brings to the table actual video training modules that teachers must take which trains them in what an exemplary, constructivist classroom looks like. However, this adds more burden to an already overwhelming schedule for teachers asking them to spend several hours a week after school to complete these trainings. Additionally it does not give in person coaching to the teachers. Concurrently, government funding for special education projects and government Title 1 monies for schools are shrinking every year. This means no funding to hire specialists to help train teachers. Funding that IS available is coming from private endowments and less from the government. Those of us that create Professional Development and coaching in the classroom now need to come together and coalesce where big funding is available. It’s all a grass roots movement. It always has been. This does not scare us. We keep revising the plan. You as a parent or caregiver: Find ways to bring information to your educators, raise funds for your school so that they can match funding on grants to help your teachers get training to implement efficient teaching strategies. Take a look at the Common Core Modules for your child’s grade and see where you may participate (even it if is just asking the right reflective questions or knowing what books or documentaries to watch at home). Find out who your state and very local endowments are and build relationships with them…somehow, someway. They will be a great resource financially someday. Or pull your kids out of school altogether. I don’t care, just do something. But most of all realize that teachers are at the front lines of this mess. They are not the enemy. Many of them feel their hands are tied so lets help free them.
And with that said I realize I am no expert, I could be totally full of crap so let me have it. I can take it on the chin!