Quick thought on Common Core

Everyone by now should know what Common Core is, and what it’s about.  They are basically trying to standardize English Language Arts and Math across all 50 States.  Some love it, some hate it.  I’m not an expert on it, and I do not speak with authority on the subject.  I don’t know why they’re implementing it, or how they are implementing it.  I have seen articles on it, and had an introduction to it at work.  Its a new concept for me, and I’m trying to learn it myself.  I have some observations, thoughts, guesses, and assumptions on it though.  Please take this with a grain of salt.  I’m not pro Common Core, but have some thoughts on it.  When I say things like, this is why they are doing it, or this is their plan; that is just me speaking of my guess as to why they are doing it.

I just started my first job in the School System this year.  I am not a teacher.  I started in March, so most of the school year was already finished.  I received a little training during the school year in Common Core.

An example was given to the crowd.  What is 5×3?  How would you write it?  If you said 5×3=15 then you are wrong.  They want to see you write it out.  It’s not about memorization.  What is the equation?  It should be seen as 5 groups of 3 things.  If you write 5+5+5=15, you are wrong.  That’s 3 groups of 5 things or 3×5=15.  The correct way to write the problem out would be 3+3+3+3+3=15.

You’re thinking that’s crazy right?  I did.  I grew up in Southern California.  I went to 3 elementary schools in California because my Dad was in the Marine Corps.  4 if you count when we moved to North Carolina.  I learned different ways to do the same thing in the different schools.  Moving from one State to another was also hard.  I went from A’s to D’s.

I learned multiplication by memorization.  When I did the training, I saw people using a two hand method.  You can multiply with two hands for the 9’s or something like that.  Other people were showing different examples I never seen before to multiply.  The presenter highlighted the different ways each person was taught.

I thought memorization was fine.  The presenter asked how was the transition to Pre-Algebra and Algebra.  I said it was difficult for me.  I struggled a little bit.  I was told that the way common core is being taught, it is meant to help students transition into the harder math concepts.

Looking at a simle equation, and then breaking it down to solve seems tedious.  Why right?  3+12= 15.  Why write out 3+3+3+3 or 5+5+5?  Its supposed to get students ready to solve the complex equations.  The ones where you have to throw in letters.  It’s supposed to make Calculus, Algebra, and Trigonometry easier because you’re already used to solving complex equations.  You have developed critical thinking, and deep reasoning skills.  You also can’t memorize every single step of a complex equation.  You have to do the work step by step.  For people who just memorized, you basically have to learn how to do math over again at an older age.

Same thing for Language Arts.  They are trying to get the students ready for the more in depth comprehension questions.  Questions you will have to answer at the high school level, on the ACT/SAT and in college.  I could go on about it, but you get the idea.  It’s starting the students off at an earlier age to make it easier for them when they get to the higher level grade levels.  There’s no sense in trying to learn a new concept when you’re older.  Or so I’m guessing.

I’m not an advocate for common core.  I’m not saying it’s the best solution.  It’s just an attempt to try something different.  The United States is large.  Every State has their own standards.  Every State has different school districts with different standards.  Some are standard within the State itself, but others?  Who knows.

I went to 4 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and two high schools in two different States.  I’ve been on the 7 point grade scale and 10 point grade scale.  I had courses in one State as a high school freshmen that high school seniors were taking in another State.  I found out that North Carolina had less Physical Education requirements than California.  When I moved to California, I had to drop a bunch of classes to take a bunch of PE’s.  I’ve been in the 2 semester system, and the 3 semester system.

That’s just two different States.  Now apply that to 50.  With each State being able to tailor the curriculum to how they see fit.  Common core is trying to make it so that students in one State are learning the same way, and are on the same level as students in other States.  If you move, you don’t have to flunk a grade.

People have also argued that tests are biased, and they don’t reflect the population that is taking them.  Test questions are geared towards the suburbs.  So common core is a way to take out the biased.  All students will be prepared for the same tests, regardless of their socio-economic background.

I know that some questions stump people on the internet.  I got a bunch wrong when I was going through the training.  Look at how I was taught though.  We will see how it will work out in time.  I can say that its not a worse way to teach students.  So it wont hurt them in the long run if it is found to not be the best way.

I think some reservations to it comes from people who don’t like a standardized curriculum from the Government.  Keep it in the States, and let the States figure it out.  If I was in a State with the worst test scores, lowest level of college graduates, and failing schools, I would try to be more open to it.

Oh, and common core isn’t the answer all.  If you implement it, it will not change our students in a heart beat.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.  There will always be students who find that education is a waste of their time.  They will cause disruptions, and try to capture the focus or attention of the class.  This isn’t the educator’s fault.  This problem started at home, and deals with the student’s upbringing, and level of family involvement.  Common core isn’t going to solve that family’s problem, and help them nurture a better student to send to school.

This isn’t advocating for common core.  I’m just trying to present examples of what I think is the reasoning as to why it was implemented, and what they intend to do.  It is different from what I grew up with, and I haven’t worked in the school system long enough to see if it’s successful or not.  The only thing I can say is encourage your children to be better students, and to try hard.  Make learning fun at home, and teach them about the benefits of college.  Teach them that it is cool to be smart, and show them examples of smart people who are successful.  Reinforce the idea that they really can be anything they put their mind to in the future, if they try hard now.  Students need to see a goal in order to strive towards it.  If the student knows nothing but entertainers, actors, singers, etc, then that’s the only role model shaping their outlook on life.  Introduce them to educated role models in person.  That’ll do more for your student than you can imagine.

There are a ton of websites that explain it in more detail.  I just wanted to throw my thoughts and observations on it so far.  I just started in a school system, but I’m not a teacher.  I am learning about it, and I’m just now seeing how it is being implemented.  Common Core does remind me of a school system I attended a few times growing up as a military child.  Department of Defense Education Authority schools are pretty standardized.  You can transfer from Germany to Japan to England to California and still be successfu.  Here’s an article on it:

http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/issues349.shtml

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