WARNING: This post is far more serious that my previous posts, but hang in there!
Last week in my math course we were asked to look into the Common Core standards. Before starting my research I had the following assumptions about Common Core and state standards
- Standards were put in place to ensure every child learns what they will need
- Standards are created by the education community
- Common Core standards, especially the math methods, are confusing
- Teachers dislike standards because they limit the depth of the content while expanding the breadth
Assumption 1: Standards were put into place for the children
I still believe this is true, to an extent. The idealistic standards were put in place to ensure that our nation’s children were learning what they needed to grow into successful human beings. After all, we want our nation to continue to be successful, right? Idealistically, that’s true. But where what’s going on in my community…When the baby boomers were in school they were taken care of by their parents. Their parents were more than happy to pass referendums; they would pay more taxes if it meant that their children would have a better life than they did. They build new state of the art schools with swimming pools and sports fields. Now, as adults, those baby boomers who were supported by their parents don’t find it necessary to give their hard earned money to the school. Referendum after referendum fails, teachers are let go, technology is dated, swimming pools are shutdown. Baby boomers are skeptical of the educational system, yet they are the ones designing the standards. Are they capable of looking beyond their pocket books? That brings me to assumption 2
Assumption 2: Standards are created by the education community
I believed that standards were created by the people that worked with children, or at least by those who have researched the way children learn. After some searching, I learned that standards are heavily influenced by corporate American, or more specifically, by the fortune 500 companies. Big companies have big bucks, and a big need for effective employees. The success of a company (which can also be read as “the profit for the executives”) is dependent on the skills of the employees. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see why big companies are invested (literally) in the educational system. These corporate investments are, in a big way, thanks to the federally produced document “A Nation at Risk.” Check out the links at the bottom if you want to know more. Long story short, I was wrong, standards are always created or pushed for by the education community.
Assumption 3: Common Core standards, especially the math methods, are confusing
There are many MANY memes out there about Common Core math standards. Common Core moves away from the teaching styles that many of us are used to. It seems confusing and complicated to us, but the standards were based on the best standards from the states across the nation and modeled after successful international programs. They stress deep understanding of key ideas and are organized based on research around how students learn. It might be different than the way we were taught, but take one look at our nation’s international math standing and you’ll see that something has got to give.
Assumption 4: Teachers dislike standards because they limit the depth of the content while expanding the breadth
I still believe this is true. Anytime standards are brought up a tension rises in the room. Standards are rigid; they take away some of the freedom teachers once had. But those of you who are just starting out, like I am, standards are what we will know. The standards are well organized, and while they might limit what we teach, they give us the freedom to focus on how to teach it, rather than what to teach.
Moral of the story, assumptions, while sometimes hold true, lots of times let us down. Take the time to analyze your assumptions, I can guarantee you will learn something new.
Some information for you, as promised
Fortune’s article on Fortune 500 companies involvement in schools
New York Times article on corporate involvement in the classroom
A link to A Nation At Risk excerpt