Friday, April 25, 2014

From a teacher: Don't ditch Common Core

Some in the N.C. legislature seem willing to abandon a common sense plan for Common Core base-line academic standards in Tar Heel state public schools. A legislative panel on Thursday proposed dropping Common Core and replacing it with nebulous N.C. standards.

But if lawmakers jettison Common Core, they won't do so without a fight from some accomplished educators who can clearly articulate its value. Mooresville teacher Nancy Gardner is among them. She attended a public hearing in Raleigh on March 20 by that panel, the N.C. General Assembly’s Legislative Research Commission on Common Core State Standards, and she made these remarks: Hopefully, if the draft legislation to ditch Common Core comes to a vote in the short legislative session next month, enough lawmakers will take her words to heart.

"My name is Nancy Gardner..and I teach Senior English students at Mooresville Senior High School. I am a renewed National Board Certified Teacher whose leadership is rooted in my work with the Center for Teaching Quality.

I started teaching in 1974. I am preparing seniors for a very different world now in 2014 - some 40 years later.

Three things my students in 2014 do well:
1. multi task on their devices
2. live in the present
3. take Multiple Choice tests.

Three things students in 2014 struggle with:
1. Problem solving
2. Critical reading and writing
3. Perseverance.

These 3 skills are the heart and soul of the Common Core literacy standards. The standards outline what my seniors need to know and be able to do to be successful in a rapidly changing world. They don’t tell me how to teach or what to teach--that’s my job.

My students can Google facts and figures all day, but if they haven't mastered literacy skills, they won't be ready for the future. It's my job to help students learn to read like detectives and write like private investigators. It's my job to make them read closely, think deeply, and communicate clearly.

The Common Core standards help me focus on the skills these seniors need to be ready for the next part of their lives. Whether my students eventually diagnose what is wrong with my heart or with the engine in my car, they will be critical thinkers and problem solvers. The Common Core helps me do my job, so my students will be able to do theirs."

Well said.


Garth Vader said...

Erin said...

Ditch. It.

TeachGCS said...

Most that are critical of the standards are typically uninformed, and use talking points they have heard on talk radio to argue against something they have no understanding of. Common Core is the new conservative boogie man, especially now that the battle against Obamacare has been lost. I would everyone to actually read the standards before getting your pitchforks out.

Garth Vader said...

TeachGCS writes: "I would everyone".

I guess Common Core discourages the use of verbs.

But nice try calling critics "uninformed".

TeachGCS said...

Yes Garth, you got me. You win!

Have you read the standards? I honestly would be happy to see a legitimate criticism of the standards, using examples from the standards.

Are they perfect? Of course not, but I am certain that whatever the state would produce would be no better.

Here are the 4th grade math standards your video references:

I see no discussion of the 108 step process the women in your video describes. She may have a legitimate concern about a problem a teacher assigned to her student, but not the Common Core. Also, having students show their "work" when completing a math problem is not unique to Common Core. This is something teachers have been doing for decades, even if they have students who can complete the questions quicker through other means. It doesn't make it right, but it certainly wasn't started by Common Core.

Susan Brewer said...

Perhaps Garth doesn't know that a period goes inside of the end quotation marks.

Garth, it was a typo. On a blog.

Don't be petty. Address what she says.

I think Arne Duncan was right about some parents not wanting to find out what their kids don't know. A poorly-chosen comment, sure. But I think he hit on a lot of truth too.

Nothing wrong with CC. What the speaker in the original post says is absolutely correct: the students today don't think critically. It's too hard for them, mainly because they haven't had to.

nugeme said...

I have taught ( successfully) for over 30 years. Not only do I disagree with her, I do not know even one teacher with whom I serve that would. Common Core turned my Cadillac curriculum into a Pinto! It has gutted the life from my subject. It is a jumbled mess. Not sure her motivation but I can only conclude one of two things - she really doesn't understand it or she has been cajoled to support for some other reason. Ditch it!

Chlt Mom of 3 said...

Common core might be ok for the older students but it definitely is not for the elementary students. Not one of the teachers I have asked like it. I have three at the elementary school level and volunteer in their school. My first grader had this and similar problems on his math sheet at the beginning of the year. A man is planting a row of seeds. He has planted a number of seeds. He has 6 seeds in his hand and his bag had 17 seeds in it. Write and solve the equation. Keep in mind he's 6 and they have barely started basic math. Try explaining the vague concept of the unknown number to a 6 year old. When I talked to his teacher, she said it was part of the common core curriculum. And yes, she felt it was developmentally inappropriate. Do I think our kids need to be challenged? Absolutely, but shouldn't we take into account what is appropriate for the age/grade of the child? While a few people who are against common core may be "uninformed," dismissing legitimate concerns of a large number of people shows just who's the ignorant one.

Charles said...

@ Susan Brewer,

It's only American standards that place periods inside end quotation marks. The English - who invented the language, you know - place periods outside quotation marks, which is logical.

Americans made the change because when type was handset, the period would get knocked out of alignment.

kkohl said...

Can a commenter who opposes Common Core please cite a specific standard that is of concern?

The video link that Garth posted was a concerned mother referencing poorly designed curriculum, not the CCSS. Chlt Mom of 3 noted a math sheet that her student brought home with confusing math procedures. Again, this is a poorly designed (or at least poorly worded) assignment rather than the standards themselves. Nugeme's sample size is too small to be relevant, but the National Education Association (representing 3 million teachers) found that 75% of members support the standards:

Thanks to TeachGCS for actually posting a link to the standards.

There has been a rush by publishing companies seeking to capitalize on Common Core by putting out substandard curriculum materials that claim to be aligned to the standards. There have also been substandard implementation efforts in many districts and states. Let's have a conversation about those issues.

However, I have yet to find a Common Core critic who raises issue with any of the actual standards.

RP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RP said...


As a 27 year classroom veteran, I'd love to hear about your Cadillac curriculum.

I've struggled with my curricular choices for years. As a social studies teacher, when my students asked, "When are we ever going to use this history stuff?", I struggled with a convincing answer. The old tried and true "Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it" didn't seem to have relevance to their teen lives.

Now I get nods of agreement from them when we talk about the value of critical reading, writing and communication of Common Core. I see a connection forming between their future plans and my curriculum.

Is this critical classroom a new development of Common Core? No, probably not. But Common Core does give me (and other less experienced teachers) a framework to build this type of learning experience.

Why is that bad? Does requiring students to read critically, talk about what they’ve read, and write about it diminish your curriculum? I’m thinking if it does - it may be time to trade in the Caddy for a newer model with more relevant 21st century features.

My motivation for supporting Common Core? That would be a sense of purpose in my teaching and in the learning of my students.

teacher05021938 said...

This also was submitted to the Charlotte Observer as a response to VIEWPOINT but was not selected...

From a teacher’s perspective, schools cannot be run by a grid on a national level. Standards must be personalized to adapt to learning style, mental ability, and motivation. Testing should only be a part of the educational opportunity but students must not only focus on test-taking and outcomes to reward teachers.

I agree that children are “moving targets” as stated by General Marks, but they should not to be experimented with or molded into a united batch of marching units, uniformly in step.

Standards must be established by teaching professionals to create State Standards. They know curriculum, levels of achievement, and clear/realistic goals. Standards must reflect the community and children they serve. Local school boards must be involved, not textbook manufacturers or politicians.

General Marks is concerned for military children, which is understandable, but also consider the undernourished, children struggling with family issues, highly motivated students, or the non-English speaker. This complex mixture of students adds another dimension to the challenges within the average classroom. Teachers must adapt, nurture, and guide each child to face each step of their education.

I don’t have the impressive title of General of US Army Intelligence Center, but rather offer a more simple view of a teacher’s attitude, view, observations, experiences, and first-hand leadership.

Education is not a business of balancing books, charts and progress, but rather it is balancing the needs of children and the flexibility made by teachers in the classroom to make adjustments and modifications.

Let’s take a hypothetical lesson using the analogy of studying a simple “feather” in one lesson on one day according to a rigid schedule. Perhaps a child challenges the differences of a duck, peacock, or dodo bird and begins to research. Another may scientifically question the range of textures, colors, growth, reproduction or locale. Still another may explore the uses of feathers in commercial products. If the teacher is limited by time and scope, true learning is squelched and creative ventures are omitted. My twenty-six years in the classroom has allowed me the flexibility to follow the interests of my students who craved challenges, not only by rote memory or standardized tests. There is much more to learning than to be handed the same text used all over the country to regurgitate. This national standard is too regulated and controlled with little room for movement or creativity.

Politicians are now tinkering with education. Teachers do not march into businesses and dictate employee motivation, honesty, math capability, reward systems, salaries, use of technology, incentives, enrichment and job satisfaction. In turn, why is it plausible that business leaders insist their approach is applicable in the classroom? It seems we thrive in creating controversy rather than finding a local solution workable to the circumstances. Laws imposed from unknown well-intended leaders are suspect to criticism.

Lt. Governor Dan Forrest clearly stated: “The Common Core standards still have not been tried, tested, or rewritten for success four years after adoption in North Carolina. Why would we roll out Common Core to every school and every student in our state, all at once, without proper vetting and testing?” If we aim toward developing critical think with our students, I propose that we also accept this philosophy with politicians, textbook creators, parents, and the general public. We then would have accomplished a Core with is Common and acceptable to all.

Shamash said...

My main concern about the math standards is that they stop too soon.

They should go through Calculus, or at least pre-Calculus, shouldn't they?

From what I can tell, they barely touch on Trigonometry.

Of course, I'm glad to see them work on problem solving in general because that is much more important for most people.

If nothing else, the Common Core should cover enough math to get someone through the typical college and grad school admissions tests for those who are not planning to be professional scientists, engineers or mathematicians.

larryfla said...

As a former educator, I believe that common core is the way to go in countries where education puts learning as first priority. In a country where feeling good about yourself, free lunches, athletics, and racially modified history lessons for the purpose of social engineering and misleading, it isn't such a good idea.

Way too many kids in the public school system are there because their mothers don't want them at home therefore there isn't any support and they don't need kids around when buying those scratch-off lotto tickets.

Mommas in this kind of setting think that their kid(s) only need to answer questions that require one word responses and realize that the government will take care of them. Consequently, the U.S. public school system isn't the intellectual, success motivated model that would be successful and benefit from "common core."

It is horrible that the republicans support something that would require students to be able to leave school with the ability to rationalize and openly discuss controversial issues on an intellectual basis. That just wouldn't be fun for them and they might miss out on all the 'warm fuzzies."

Chris's buzz said...

My son is a freshman in high school and part of the 'test year' of the Common Core in North Carolina.

During this year our son has stated emphatically many times that there is no homework, and no corrected papers or tests to bring home for review. He says he has been told that his work will be kept on file with his teachers. There has been an extreme lack of information about his progress, only the grade entered on the website we are allowed to access. As there are few graded papers coming home, we have not been given the chance to help him correct and understand mistakes.

My son comments about the core curriculum are that he is often bored during class, that the CC worksheets are simple and that the teachers aren't actually teaching.
His test grades have been lower than we expect, especially as he insists that the pre-test studying is done in class.

We are not lax parents - both of us college grads - and I hold an expired middle-school credential. We are extremely concerned that he has actually regressed in his learning, with a lower GPA than he earned at the end of middle school.

My son says he feels unchallenged by the common core, and he hopes that North Carolina will remove the common core & return to the previous textbook-driven studies.

Students do not learn at the same rate or achieve the same grades. To force a student to perform simple work to 'equalize' learning is discouraging.
We support the removal of the Common Core in North Carolina.

RP said...

Chris' Buzz -

Sounds like a teacher issue. Have you met with the teacher expressed your concerns? I'd love to share my 9th grade World History class activities with you. Is he challenged with reading of many types? Does he write often in different formats? Does he have a chance to collaborate and talk about his learning with his classmates? That's what Common core is all about - not worksheets.

Have a conversation with his teacher and express your concerns.

I'd hate to see my 100 students suffer because of the experiences of your son.