Friday, April 12, 2013

The Fuss Over Common Core Part II

The mission statement on the Common Core website states:  The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Do states not already have standards?  I know our state does. When I taught, we were required to give out copies of the standards for our course on the first day of school.  We correlated lessons to the standards and posted these correlations on the dry erase boards in our rooms. We had to write objectives for each lesson relating to the standard for the student and post on our board.

Did I see a change in student learning by doing this?  No.  Maybe it was because I had always began each lesson with what we were doing for the day and week.  But now the students would read the board, if they wanted to know what was going on in class that day.  Otherwise, they could care less and would just wait for me to tell them.  I posted the information on my school website.  Did the parents of those struggling look at this information?  The majority of them did not.  When I called parents about their child's lack of progress and mentioned my website had the daily lessons for the entire week, they acted surprised.  How is Common Core going to change this?

Real world relevancy cannot just be taught in the classroom around same aged peers.  The ELA standards state that they "set requirements not only for English language arts (ELA) but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Just as students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, so too must the Standards specify the literacy skills and understandings required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines." 

Now, I understand that students should be literate in the topics they wish to pursue for career choices.  Many students that I taught had no desire to go into the sciences as a career choice.  They were interested in history or art, literature or music, math or drama.  They would ask why do they need to know this stuff.  Like all other teachers, I would say so you will be a well-rounded adult.  What I really wanted to say was, you should already know enough of this by now and the only ones in here should be those wishing to pursue a career in the sciences.  If we want well-rounded, yet productive citizens, should we not introduce the student to all the varieties by eighth grade and then allow the student to select his path for high school?  You say, he will change his mind about his path if it becomes to difficult.  Don't college students change their minds?  If the student is focused on his studies, he will continue his path and look forward to completing it.  This is what so many homeschoolers want for their children.  I surely do.  I want my children to hack their education.

What is hacking education?  It is allowing the student to choose what he is interested in and go for it.  Now my children are in their elementary years of schooling, but next year my oldest will enter 6th grade.  I have three more years to expose her to world history (we finish American history this year).  She has three more years to complete grammar and mathematics and science.  By the end of these three years, she should be well-rounded in her studies.  She should have a good grasp of terminology used in different disciplines.  She should be able to understand and follow a conversation that does not directly relate to her chosen path for a career.  However, when she enters her high school years, she should begin focusing on what career path she wants.  She has already expressed interest in working for her father.  This is when she will begin truly hacking her education. 

Will she need to know how to write an English literature paper?  No.  She will need to know how to write a project quote and present it to a customer.  Will she need to know a foreign language?  Maybe.  However, computer programing may become her foreign language of choice.  Will she need to know calculus?  Not really, but she will need to know how to use Quickbooks and complete payroll, itemized reports, and budgets.  Will she need to know how to write a scientific research paper?  No, but she will need to know how to research the needs of clients, decipher technological information to explain it to clients, solve computer issues, etc.  Will she need to go to college?  Not really.  We won't discourage it if she wants to attend college, but she should not have to go.  She will instead need to complete online training certifications of various types of software that our clients use.  Do college classes offer this?  No.

Now the next to last question, may shock some.  We definitely live in a society that believes everyone should attend college.  We have thousands of high school students that believe they will amount to nothing, if they do not attend college.  We have thousands of college students that cannot find a job with the degree they sought.  (How many companies hire grads with a French Literature degree?)  We have thousands of college graduates drowning in debt.  I am a college grad, but my husband is not.  He went for two years and decided it wasn't for him.  He hacked his education in the computer industry.  He now owns a profitable business and is growing yearly.  When we first met, I made more money teaching than he did in his business.  Steadily, he continued to grow and I was able to quit my job and stay home to educate our children.  So, college is not the be all and end all for success.  So why do our public and private schools push college?

I remember teaching a young man that had failed two grades (one in middle school and his ninth grade year in high school).  He would tell me that he hated school and really wanted to go to the local tech school to learn HVAC.  He was bummed that he should be graduating that year and still had two years left because of his failures.  The young man thought he wasn't smart because school was telling him he wasn't.  This young man wasn't academically gifted, but he was smart.  He could problem solve and loved working with his hands.  He was trying to convince his dad to let him drop out and get his GED or an apprenticeship with an HVAC company.  He had a plan and I applauded him.  Two months after he told me his plans, his dad agreed to let him follow his dreams.  This young man went on to get his GED and work in HVAC.  He is a productive citizen enjoying his life.  How many more are out there? 

Is Common Core going to help students that want to hack their education?  Or is Common Core going to force so much more content specific knowledge on our secondary youth, that their education as a whole suffers?  I believe the latter. 

We are a nation that has been exposed to much, but has learned little.  What was wrong with education before the 1900s?  Children learned the three Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic).  They then took apprenticeships to learn a trade that served them well.  Some went off to college and received formal training in law or medicine.  Oh yes, I can hear some say that a child did not really have a say in what type of trade he learned.  Yes, that is true for some.  However, today can we not listen to our children and support them in their decision?  Some may need more guidance in selecting a trade.   (Not everyone is going to grow up to be a pro athlete, movie star, or music star.)  Can we get rid of the term tween and teen and call them young people?  Stop allowing the 11-19 year-olds an excuse to be immature.  These terms used to describe young people today are modern inventions.  I read somewhere that anyone under thirty years of age could still be considered a dependent.  What? 

When I taught, I heard students stating they wanted more responsibility.  They wanted to pursue their dream to become X, Y or Z.  When I asked then why don't your grades show this desire?  They said because taking certain classes won't help them anyway and why waste time studying those things.  You see, the kids that I taught were deemed the low-level students of the school.  They didn't make the grade.  However, I saw a good majority of these students, as having true insight into what they wanted.  Modern education was not helping them achieve their goals.  Would Common Core help them?

Homeschoolers recognize the need to personalize education.  A good majority understand that states blind faith to Common Core will open Pandora's box.  Local control of education will no longer exist.  The federal government will be the ominous voice  of education for the entire nation.  Has our nation not learned from history, of other countries, that have had full government control on their schools?  Probably not.  Read the book "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America" and you will be truly awakened to what has come and is coming in education.  We need to wake up and see Common Core for what it is.  I pray that my state has started to awaken and is trying to pass legislation that will stop the implementation of Common Core.  Where does your state stand?  Where do you stand?