Common Core Curriculum: Does it benefit our students?!!

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CORE Curriculum, where a possible acronym for CORE could be “Concepts of Robotic Education”, is the newest institution to invade our school systems.  If there was ever a program to stifle creativity and innovative teaching, CORE may be the ultimate development.   The whole theory behind it is “rotten to the Core”.  It is based on a false premise, i.e. if every teacher instructs in the same way, with exactly the same material, the students will benefit.

From ask.com, the definition of “core curriculum”:  a curriculum in which all or some of the subjects or courses are based on a central theme in order to correlate the subjects and the theme.

From:  Common Core State Standards Initiative: http://www.corestandards.org/

The Mission Statement:  The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Mathematics experiences in early childhood settings should concentrate on (1) number (which includes whole number, operations, and relations) and (2) geometry, spatial relations, and measurement, with more mathematics learning time devoted to number than to other topics. Mathematical process goals should be integrated in these content areas.

—Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood, National Research Council, 2009

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (“the Standards”) are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K–12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.

The Standards set requirements not only for English language arts (ELA) but also for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Just as students must learn to read, write, speak, listen, and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, so too must the Standards specify the literacy skills and understandings required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines.Literacy standards for grade 6 and above are predicated on teachers of ELA, history/social studies, science, and technical subjects using their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields. It is important to note that the 6–12 literacy standards in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects are not meant to replace content standards in those areas but rather to supplement them. States may incorporate these standards into their standards for those subjects or adopt them as content area literacy standards.

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On the surface, the Mission statement sounds fine.  The problem is with the implementation of the standards.  Most teachers with whom I have spoken deny the “robust and relevant to the real world” statement as an actual goal of common core standards. What they see is a rigid, uncompromising method of teaching which “negates their abilities as teachers”.

The statement from the English standard:  “to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school”, shows the true goals of the common core standards. So is it safe to say the Common Core Standards are geared to the average or below average students?  What then happens to the above average or gifted students?  Are they to be relegated to the backburner, to a future of boring courses, so that we can address the illiteracy issues in this country?  For the record, illiteracy is more related to demographics than to bad teachers or a poor curriculum. The abject failure of the Abbott decision, i.e. that pouring money into poor districts will improve school ratings, is the same misguided approach.  You are not going to erase poverty, urban crime, and absentee parenting with the Common Core Curriculum!
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A Fox News report found that the biggest critics of this curriculum were the teachers themselves. A growing number of teachers say the national standards, adopted by some 45 states, have combined with pressure to “teach to the test”, to take all individuality out of their craft. Some teachers told FoxNews.com the new education approach is turning their lessons into little more than data-dispensing sessions, and they fear their jobs are being marginalized. “Now teachers aren’t as unique,” said Michael Warren, a public school history teacher in New Jersey. “It means anyone can do it. It’s like taking something done by humans and having it done by a machine.”

Glyn Wright, executive director of The Eagle Forum, a Washington-based watchdog group that has long campaigned against the new curriculum, told FoxNews.com. “The standards were created by private organizations in Washington, D.C., without input from teachers or parents and absent any kind of study or pilot test to prove its effectiveness.”  www.foxnews.com 12/8/13

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At 2013 Fort Lee High School Back to School Night, parents were informed that in all English classes for a certain grade, i.e. standard or honors classes, the students would use EXACTLY the same literature.  The only exception is that the Honors English classes would have to read an additional book during the year. It seems highly probable that the English teachers had essentially no input whatsoever into this decision.  It would seem logical to conclude that, in order to implement this curriculum properly at Fort Lee High School, C3PO should be instructing the class, while R2D2 whistles loudly to keep the students awake.

Is it too farfetched to believe that an English teacher selecting books from an “approved list” would not benefit from the incorporation of literature that he/she thoroughly enjoyed reading, rather than being saddled with a generic list, some of which that teacher may have found incredibly boring in his/her experience?  Do we so lack confidence in our teachers that they are not considered competent enough to make this sort of decision?  And exactly how were these particular books for the courses selected?  I, personally, would be very interested in the process.

To be clear, the Common Core Curriculum in theory has some positives.  It is the manner of implementation that is the key element.  The major flaw is that it is being interpreted in a way to complete deprive our children of any hope of enjoying education.  In spite of what most students currently believe, “learning can actually be fun”!

There is a positive side to this new age of automaton education. We no longer have to worry about hiring the best available teachers and keeping them.   Anyone with a teaching degree should be able to instruct using Common Core Curriculum, because it totally negates the necessity to “interact with the students” or for a teacher to “create a unique learning environment.  “Just follow the carefully prepared syllabus for the course and the students will learn” or so we are led to believe.   Of course, the better teachers may begin to wander off to private schools where their creativity and innovation are appreciated.  But this is the price to be paid for “the evolution of our educational system” or “devolution”, whichever is more accurate.

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