Common Core or Common Sense?

It's that time of year again! Students all over the US are being subject to standardized testing that stems from teaching to 'The Common Core' curriculum. Should we be teaching the Common Core? Have we lost our Common Sense?

Everyday Mathematics is just one of the programs that makes a heck of a lot of money off of textbooks sold to schools that teach to the "Core." The method isn't just restricting for teachers and students, it's lining people's pockets.
Everyday Mathematics is just one of the programs that makes a heck of a lot of money off of textbooks sold to schools that teach to the "Core." The method isn't just restricting for teachers and students, it's lining people's pockets.

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By Laura Madsen

Common Core."  Ugh.  Standardized tests.  Ugh.  It’s that time of year again ladies and gentlemen!

I remember growing up, I had to take standardized tests in school.  The difference was, 20 plus years ago, these tests weren’t the “be all, end all”.  They didn’t determine how much funding the schools got depending on how well students performed.  They didn’t constrain teachers’ creativity by choking them to death with a workload without a spare moment to infuse students’ minds with inspiring reading or taking them on field trips.

School used to be a place where you could learn about life; not just life as it is written in books.

And I’m sorry, but just because a student scores in a top percentile, it does not equate to the real life scenario that they will be promised to earn $100,000 more than their classmates; nor does it guarantee them a job upon graduation.

If I could explain how division is done in a word problem, it does not mean I am a better individual than anyone else. 

Yet, schools are rewarded for their participation in The Common Core.  Students are stressed out over this.  It’s silly.

When I was in elementary school, I could remember taking a field trip to a nearby nature preserve.  All of the fifth grade teachers collaborated with a few parent volunteers and had planned a scavenger hunt.  All of us had a crash course in learning how to use a compass, and had to set off in smaller supervised groups on an all-day excursion, attempting to be the first team to locate all 6 landmarks hidden throughout the park.

Why was this important? How did this fall into the context of things we should learn in life?  I tell you, I use the lessons I learned from that day more than I have ever used algebra.  If my GPS broke down, I could find my way out of a paper bag.  I know to navigate by the sun’s position.  I know what teamwork is all about when people key off of each other, trying to achieve something.  I also know how to socialize and relax – a very important part of life when most of society is overwhelmed with anxiety, placating it with pills, and some struggle to be socially comfortable. 

The Common Core, which is teaching to a test, places more stress on students and loses focus on how education should not be limited in scope. nor become the only way that students should learn or demonstrate what they know.

And, we all learn at different paces.  Just like the bragging mother who says her toddler started walking at 9 months old – does it really matter when by age two everyone is prancing around on the ground?  Eventually everyone “gets it”.  Why make some children feel defeated if they need a little more time to learn certain subjects?  Why push them to a grade level standard that’s setting them up for failure, and making them feel like one as a person, too?

I read books that went beyond what was required when I was in school.  One of my favorite authors is Edgar Allen Poe, thanks to an eighth grade teacher who wanted to spice things up and deviate from the norm.  His stories and style inspired me to write.  Reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury taught me the love of reading – a book – over and over again.  Instead of sticking to the same and the mundane, my teachers had the flexibility to introduce students to their favorite authors and didn’t care if it wasn’t state-testable.

I hear many younger children complain that they don’t like to read.  They are told they have to read 20 minutes or more a night by schools that are worried they won’t be competitive when it comes to standardized testing.  Instead of learning to love to read, some kids feel it is a chore.  Everyone isn’t inspired by the same thing. The Common Core thinkers seem to feel different.  Damn choice. Damn creativity in the classroom.  We’ve got tests to take people!

And the point that schools are missing the most, is that it’s good to deviate and be different.  Just as we expect everyone to appreciate each other’s differences, we should honor the teachers who dare to go off the beaten path and explore alternative options for classroom learning.  Core schmore.

I applaud the six states that refuse to adopt the common core curriculum. There’s no benefit from pushing students past playtime faster than they can blink.  Socialization skills are being swept under the rug in Kindergarten because they are already given homework at age 5 and are working towards being “on par” to take their first set of standardized tests in third grade.

You can’t measure intelligence in a uniform way.  Albert Einstein verbalized it perfectly when he said, “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

― Albert Einstein


Teaching to a common core doesn’t allow for those who are exceptionally bright in the fields of science, athletics, computers, and other areas to thrive in school and prove their performance outside of reading, writing, and mathematics.  It undermines inquisitive curiosity that children naturally have.  It limits their pursuit of their talents and passions.  They have no room to think outside of the box because the box is all-consuming of their time when in a classroom.

What about the students who are nervous test takers - the ones who crumble under a time crunch? They can be brilliant, but their shining stars aren’t recognized under standardized testing.

There’s so much wrong with “the system”.

I long for days gone by – days of more classroom field trips, days where a teacher could introduce novels of choice to her class, days where when you got the right answer to a math problem it didn’t matter if you didn’t explain it according to the principles of a school subscribed-to vendor that created content to comply with “The Core”.  It’s a money maker.  Oh, you didn’t know that?  Look at who the schools are buying their workbooks from.  Look at the names of the companies propagating the core classroom learning.  Schools pay money to certain companies and organizations so teachers are trained how to teach these methods, and then push them down the pike for a period of years.   It’s contractual.  It’s a cash cow. 

The United States already had more celebrities per capita, cranks out the highest paid athletes, and has some of the greatest minds when it comes to developing new medicine and innovative technology.  Why push kids more?  Is it a bragging contest between nations to say “My kids learned Algebra by age 9 – nyah, nyah!”  Kids should be kids, learn, and their learning should NOT be limited to books. Moreover, their learning should not be placed between the boundaries of what a few experts deem to be the most important book-learned concepts of education.

Even if there’s a way that some students can grasp a concept easier, or a quick trick to solving a math problem that a teacher can explain, it doesn’t matter.  You have to do it “the Core way” today.

It is very frustrating for parents, too, when kids bring home homework and they have questions beyond the instructions, and all you can say is that you can only show them the way you know…and not this new way that the US has decided to go.

While my daughter won’t be boycotting any testing, I have decided to give her an enriched learning experience by taking her to the town library and introducing her to books beyond what she would be exposed to in school.  I’ve taught her  The Common Sense  “tricks” like “carrying the one” or memorizing times tables (Gasp!) instead of  drawing piles of sticks on paper and then counting them up until she reaches the upper echelons of 8x9 or 12x7 and has to explain in a paragraph why it works.  It just does.  She’s not Archimedes.  There’s more than one way to skin a cat.  Explain it in words?  Are you kidding me?

Proponents of the common core need to sit back, relax, read a non-prescribed book, stop evaluating others according to imaginary uniform standards, and sip a good dose of old fashioned – and I don’t mean the drink.  On second thought, maybe they need the drink, too.

Tom Barchfeld April 28, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Commie Core.
Jeff Fread May 02, 2014 at 08:22 AM
It's important to separate out the Common Core State Standards from curriculum, standardized testing, and the effectiveness of our teachers and schools. The Common Core is the list by subject area and grade level of what should learn. They are guidelines. Curriculum is the books and material that districts select to meet standards. The quality of these varies widely, perhaps more so as they adapt to the new standards. Standardized testing has gone horribly wrong IMHO since it's used to grade teachers and schools rather than helping identify each student's strengths and weaknesses, what material they've mastered and what they're struggling with. If someone complains about Common Core they should cite specific examples of what's included but shouldn't be, or what's not included but should be. I haven't heard that here or in any other complaints. Conflating it with other topics is more like shooting the messenger. Schools have a real opportunity to measure student mastery as they go so that EACH student can move forward as fast as possible. Many of us have become frustrated with public schools because our children are not challenged or they're pushed too hard to simply keep up in class without proper support. Tools exist to measure and communicate to teachers, students and parents exactly what the child gets and what they don't. Most schools are resisting this simply because they don't understand how to use the information. Yet knowing this will eliminate high stake testing focused on schools and shift it to student focused learning. So let's see what we can do to move schools forward rather than demonizing Common Core.
Leif Fearn May 02, 2014 at 05:03 PM
I don't demonize Common Core. The point is not what is included in Common Core. The point is constitutional, and I explained that earlier in this thread. When controversies are rendered constitutional, the rendering is annoying to many folks, but annoyance doesn't change the seat of the controversy under review. However, for purposes of conversation, set the constitutional controversy aside. Curriculum is both content and procedure, What we teach, and How. To distinguish between standards and curriculum is a distinction without a difference. Every publisher whose bottom line depends even partly on book sales to schools has written, or rewritten, its writers' guidelines to accommodate the Common Core standards. There is no attention to what ought or ought not be included among the standards. For example, there are no standards for personal finance (not economics; personal finance), no standards for media literacy, no standards for native peoples in contemporary perspective, and no standards for the structure and philosophical foundations of the United States Constitution. Those absences are not accidental. If those kinds of standards do not appear among the Common Core, they do not appear in the books from which teachers teach and students learn. Readers of this thread should think about the extent, if any, to which those absences matter. I offer one reason why they do matter, that is, constitutional references in controversies of the day are routinely passed off as annoying, not instructive; rather, in the way -- irrelevant to what the collective "I" is trying to accomplish. That is not good. Leif Fearn
Jenna Reese May 09, 2014 at 09:18 PM
Dreaming in Cuban...Common Core porn http://eagnews.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Fire-between-them.jpg


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