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The Inconvenient Truth about Common Core Standards

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“What it is?” she asked when she saw the word butterfly in the story.


I switched to Spanish thinking she hadn’t learned the word in English.


“Una mariposa. Mira." I pointed to the photograph.


Five-year old Marisa scrunched up her face and looked at me. “No, sé que es, maestra.”


Marisa was stuck because she didn’t know the word, the concept, of butterfly – the delicate wings of symmetry and colors, their connection to flowers, or even the size of one. It’s hard to conceive a child not knowing this word, isn't it? But, not all parents communicate with their children in dialogue, helping them learn words. Five-year old Marisa exemplifies the stark differences in vocabulary that affect a child’s ability to learn, to succeed in school.


Before Marisa could read and comprehend the book, she needed to know about butterflies.


I had three choices:


1) Switch to a book about she had background knowledge, 

2) Teach her about butterflies and then try the book again later,

3) Make her continue reading a book the butterfly book, and hope for the best.


#3 is the worst choice for Marisa, because Marisa will have a difficult time comprehending about something she can't even visualize; but with Common Core Standards, I’d probably have to choose three and stick with the curriculum.


Common Core Standards is "a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts" for the United States. 


The problem with Common Core Standards is my student, Marisa. The problem with Common Core Standards is kids' individuality.


Learners learn best when they connect with the information, when they are interested in the information, and when they are READY to learn that information. I know it’s not convenient, but the inconvenient truth is that five-year olds start school at different readiness places -- some reading words, some not knowing colors, numbers, or the word "butterfly."


Initially, it sounds fantastic to say we have high standards for students and they are x, y, and z.


BUT . . . 


Pushing teachers to teach “knowledge” doesn't consider the individual child.  Better teaching looks at student growth, starting from where the students are, seeing them as individuals. 


What’s even more troubling, is the federal government, is developing MORE standardized tests – tests that will supposedly assess performance on the Common Core Standards. In fact, the government is spending $330 million to develop two national tests. I dare not think how many books that money would buy, how many teachers could be hire to lower class sizes, . . .


Have we learned nothing from the past? NCLB high-states testing does not and has NOT helped students. (Or we would not be working on the next “fix” for education.)


What effect will the Common Core have on national achievement? The analysis presented here suggests very little impact. The quality of the Common Core standards is currently being hotly debated, but the quality of past curriculum standards has been unrelated to achievement” says the recent report from How Well Are American Students Learning? from The Brown Center on Education Policy.


A joint statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals states, “WE HAVE GRAVE CONCERNS about the core standards for young children now being written by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The draft standards made public in January conflict with compelling new research in cognitive science, neuroscience, child development, and early childhood education about how young children learn, what they need to learn, and how best to teach them in kindergarten and the early grades.”


Principal and elementary teacher, Joanne Yatvin, writes, “I could not see many elementary school children of any background or ability meeting the standards at the grades designated. In my view, as a former elementary teacher and principal, the standards overestimate the intellectual, physiological, and emotional development of young children, asking them to think analytically as they read or write, extract subtle meanings from a text, and make fine distinctions within and across texts.”


Why are we repeating the same mistakes?

Does the government think this wolf in sheep’s clothing will trick us?


I see you wolf, and I don’t like your bully pulpit. 

Readers, it's the same as the Lorax -- you need to speak up against this if you agree with me that it's not best for kids. We all need to speak up the wolf will gobble up our children's love of learning.

Who stands with me in defense of children's individuality as learners?


Read more about Common Core Standards:

on The Answer Sheet

on Education Week

on Edutopia 

on advocate, Susan Ohanian’s website

on Schools Matter

on The Washington Post by Jay Mathews