No two children are alike—so why must we insist upon educating them like they are?
Common Core isn’t necessarily a bad idea in theory, but like most federal government attempts to inject themselves into education policy, it was implemented terribly. There’s nothing wrong with demanding that students nationwide are held to a high standard and that students from one state are no better educated than another. There is, however, a problem with injecting students into the one-size-fits-all educational environment that Common Core creates. As we saw with the disastrous rollout of No Child Left Behind (another “good idea” in theory), standards can and will be lowered in order to ensure that they are met. Mission accomplished(?).
Common Core has come under fire from teachers, legislatures, and parents, who are upset with the standardization of the classroom and unfamiliar mandates for teaching certain subjects. Common Core math requirements in particular have been lambasted due to their confusing methodology and questions that seem designed to frustrate, rather than educate, children.
The problem with today’s schools is that they are not adequately preparing students for the “real world,” but rather they are preparing students to do well on a test. The majority of jobs and careers will not require a person to complete a series of random multiple-choice questions on a daily or weekly basis. Never in my time in the “real world” have I been asked a work question without being given the opportunity to look up the answer, nor have I ever been asked to do a complicated math problem without a calculator. Yet, this is what schools subject children to. While there’s definitely a rationale for mandating that basic multiplication tables be committed to memory, is there really a problem with allowing a calculator for more complicated math?
A school district in Virginia came under fire when they announced plans to “eliminate zeroes” and allow students to turn in corrected answers to their test questions. Personally, I don’t see what the fuss was about. The point of testing is to ensure students are learning things, not to make a student give up and move on to the next unit if they get things wrong. There’s still a knowledge gap that should be filled, plus allowing test corrections would help a student with researching skills to find the correct answer. This is an environment much more typical to that of a job rather than a classroom. Students are not robots programmed to spit out correct answers to a test, and should be given an opportunity to fix their mistakes.
Different children have different academic needs to be met. While it’s a step in the right direction that Maine has finally embraced charter schools—including an online school—there’s still work to be done to ensure that all Maine children are able to receive a quality education. It’s fine to hold children to a high standard in the classroom—but not at the expense of their unique academic needs.
The only way to sell new textbooks is to change something from the old ones. Math has a language of it’s own but teaching place value a different way should not require changing the entire language. Common Core math is a theory in many respects. It was never piloted anywhere before it was implemented. Many math experts identified numerous errors and omissions when the standards first appeared yet even after five years not one thing has been changed. The geometry used in Common Core high school math is a method tried in Russia but it was quickly discarded. The only mathematician, Dr James Milgram, on the Validation Committee for the Common Core math standards refused to sign off on the standards because of the lack of quality. He said the standards would leave our kids at least two years behind students in high preforming countries. Even the head writer of the math standards, Jason Zimba, has admitted a student who completes the standards will not be prepared for higher levels of instruction in college for a STEM career.
If you research who was involved in the development of the standards and the associated high stakes tests you will find many people from the big publishing companies that stand to make billions from the sale of new textbooks. Changing the language of math that confuses the student and takes away a parent’s ability to help their child is definitely a “bad theory” and a costly one.