Throughout several of my posts on this site, I have mentioned my mom a lot. She is a Kindergarten teacher at a local elementary school in my home town. Rather than continuing to reference in a post on my opinion about common core post, I thought it would be a good idea to straight up ask one of her colleagues some of the questions my peers have posted throughout the semester on our “question of the day” spreadsheet. I thought this would give great insight into everything we’ve been curious through the mind of a teacher herself. In addition, the teacher I interviewed is pro-CCSS.
Has common core lessened individualization among the school?
I do believe that the implementation of common core has lessened individualization of school curriculum, but not schools in general. Each school is still unique in it’s own way due to the population of students, teachers, and management. The common core standards do not dictate how schools operate, they instead set guidelines of what children learn and when. This level of uniformity makes it easier for families to move from state to state and ensure that their children are still on track with their perspective peers.
What are your thoughts on the traditional grading system? Do you think students would be more encouraged to learn/master material if students and teachers weren’t so concerned with getting a “good grade” or a “good test score”?
I do think that the grades and tests scores are intimidating for both teachers and students. There has been much backlash in the recent years regarding the necessity and rigor of standardized testing. While I believe that a certain extent of testing is necessary to monitor student progress, I do think the emphasis is too great. Testing provides necessary data for teachers to use as a progression monitor in order to know where a student is in their learning. However, this is not how testing is being used and it is just an added stressor on the school system. When it comes to grades, there has been a push from experts to lessen the grading burden. The new practice is to not grade everything. When I was in school, I remember that everything I did was taken for a grade. While this is still the practice for many older teachers, the newer workforce is straying away from this norm. Some grades are taken for “effort.” In class work is being treated as practice before the “big grade” and therefore if it is completed, it’s an automatic passing grade. I believe that this practice helps students focus more on the content of the lesson rather than the importance of passing.
When making standards such as the common core, do you think it is more important to have academically informed “experts” or classroom teachers in the process of determining these standards?
Multiple opinions always make for best practice. I think the opinions of both experts in research and experts in the classroom are valuable. With a combination of their knowledge, they can collectively decide on the best educational route for the students. A collaborative effort between these researchers and teachers is the only thing that is going to help the students succeed.
With so many people dissatisfied with CCSS, is there a “perfect” solution out there? Is there a way to get parents more involved?
In regards to the backlash that the common core standards have received, I don’t understand it. I think the main problem that people have with common core is that it’s new and they don’t understand it. People are so stuck in their ways that they don’t understand that like everything else, education must advance with the rest of the world. The most common thing I hear is, “I learned it like this and I turned out just fine.” Education is an ever-evolving realm and the way we used to do things has been proven to be ineffective. Whole group-styled lectures don’t work. These innovative, new techniques are in place to enhance the learning of the students. There are complaints that the common core techniques for math in particular are too difficult, lengthy, and a waste of time. Many people argue that the standard algorithms work and always will work. This is true, but if there is not a solid foundation of the basic, underlying principles of these standard algorithms, there is no point. If you ask any older person to explain why they do an algorithm a certain way, almost every single time they will not be able to explain it. To master a technique, you must fully understand everything about it. You must understand why you carry over that one when you’re adding or the place value of the two two-digit numbers that you are multiplying, in order to claim that you truly understand what you’re doing. While I understand the hesitation towards these standards because they are unfamiliar and maybe a bit intimidating, they are what is best for our students. These standards break down everything that the kids are learning and gives them a solid foundation of knowledge that will help them excel in harder high school and college level subjects. While the CCSS aren’t perfect quite yet, the kinks are getting worked out. We just need to be patient and remember that we have to be open to new things in the world of education.
Is there a way schools can compensate for children who may not excel in the typical areas of the common core standards but have talents outside the curriculum?
I absolutely think that schools should teach outside of the CCSS. While I believe that math, English-Language Arts, science, and social studies are enormously important, I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of “specials.” Physical education, music, and art are great ways to let children express themselves in an untraditional, educational setting. Not all kids are great in standard classrooms and need the opportunity to take ownership in other areas of the school. When the kids feel good about themselves, that automatically reflects positively in the classroom. These specials classes are compensation for the students who may not feel as though they fit in in that academic setting. These classes cannot be cut from our schools, as they are just important as the four core classes.
With CCSS giving students and teachers something to work for, what are the benefits of holding all students to the same standard?
Holding all students to the same standard is beneficial for all kids to an extent. To have a common standard really helps distinguish between the high fliers and the students who need extra help, opening up the door for differentiation. Not only this, but it sets a precedent nationwide, making transferring schools (between states) a smooth transition. It is really important to make sure that all students have the same opportunity to learn no matter the type of school that you come from- Title One or affluent. These CCSS aim to put all kids on a level playing field and ensure that they are successful throughout their educational career. If all kids are learning the same content, we can ensure that they are all learning the necessary knowledge that will set them up for success.