Month: November 2013

Common Core: Teacher Prison or Student Freedom

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A confession: I can only speak for the earlier standards.  I have not read, nor am I familiar with Common Core Standards above fifth grade.

Another confession: I actually kind of like Common Core.

If you are on any kind of social media site, and I suspect you are otherwise you wouldn’t really be here reading this, chances are you have heard about the high school student who, “decimate[d] common core.”  If you haven’t, go ahead and click on that link, because what he says has a point.  Sort of.

Look at Common Core standards.  Read them closely.  Do they tell us how to teach?  Do they dictate what exactly we have to teach? No, they don’t: “This will allow our teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them” (http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards)

Ok, yes, it says in the very next line “The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them” but c’mon, you can’t expect people who aren’t in the classroom to take into consideration that getting 25-80 (depending on the grade level you teach) students to master these concepts and procedures is impossible.  But, allow me to suggest the alternative: individualized state standards.  What, I ask, what would happen when a student moves from Maine to Texas in the middle of fifth grade?  Hopefully they’d be learning the same thing as they had been in their previous school, but it’s far more likely that individual state-dictated standards would have that student either be ahead of the class (and thus bored) or behind (and thus frustrated).

Sure, Common Core has it’s kinks (but what doesn’t?).  When I plan my lessons, I plan them with my students in mind, not the standards.  When I teach my lessons, I go where the students go, not where the standards say I should.  I don’t teach to the standards, I fit the standards into my teaching.  Common Core isn’t a prison telling teachers what to teach, how to teach it, and how to achieve it; it’s an opportunity for all students in the country, no matter where they live, to get, as much as possible, an equal education.

I am in agreement that Common Core can “manufacture robots instead of people,” but it doesn’t have to be that way.  I don’t teach to the standards.  I ask myself what do I want my students to learn, and who do I want them to become?  That’s where I start.  I fit Common Core in later.  It’s possible.  Don’t imprison yourself and teach to the standards.  Free yourself and your students, who are bound to move at some point in their lives.