Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Common Core Madness!

Every now and then, my personal Facebook feed gets all up in arms about the direction of American education.  In general, I tend to believe that the Common Core is not everything we're led to believe it is, but inevitably, I wind up shaking my head in disbelief, watching the arguments go by and wondering when we hit the twilight zone, because I'm on the side of the common core.  How does that happen?

Recently, someone posted a video of an Arkansas mother who "obliterates" Common Core in four minutes flat. My first comment is that, you know, these things are all the same. Nothing original, nothing cogent, nothing worth the time. In reply came a link to the ten dumbest Common Core problems (I'm sure both are google-able, but I'm not sending 'em traffic). So I watched the video, then read the article.

Imagine my utter lack of surprise when it was exactly the same thing as every other time Common Core comes up: It's different to how we learned, therefore it's wrong!!  The problems that are called out specifically are either addressing the retention of specific mathematical strategies (it's always maths, by the way, nobody has much to say about language arts or the media and technology standards), or reinforcing number sense - both things that make pedagogical sense. Things like ensuring students understand why we have standardized measuring systems, how ten minus four equals six, and why math works the way it does - versus rote memorization. It teaches common strategies for solving problems, ones that most of us use for mental math, and asks children to use them from the get go. It introduces the concepts as regrouping, rather than borrowing and carrying, making those abstract concepts significantly more concrete for the young learners. These are all things that are important. They're not the way we learned, but teaching it, I'm seeing how incredibly much easier it is for Mad Natter to learn these concepts than it was for me.

Granted, the entire system is screwed up in its implementation and testing, but the notion that any school in the US should be roughly equal by grade level to any other school is a good one. Knowing that you can move your family, for example, from Florida to Illinois and not have to have the kiddies repeat several grades due to differing standards is a good thing. Knowing, roughly, what American children will be capable of when they graduate high school, rather than having a giant disparity between districts and states, also a good thing.

But what really gets me?  The neverending refrain. Every time a parent rails on about Common Core (full disclosure: I've not heard/read every rant ever written, and I'd really like to see the ones that aren't like this!), there is one common theme: This program is dumbing our children down.  Every time. It's about how the Common Core standards are poorly written, too low, not rigorous, not allowing students the ability to grow, holding them back, changing education such that they are not able to thrive. These standards must be abolished. Why? For exactly the same reasons these same parents dismiss out of hand when we ask for accommodations for our gifted children. The pace is too slow. There isn't enough room for our gifted children to reach their potential. There isn't any chance for their educational needs to actually be met. Our children are falling through the cracks. They are being held back by the state of education. But it's just fine to deny gifted children their "free and appropriate public education." Appropriate gifted programming is elitist - but once those same denials hit mainstream families they are intolerable and must be stopped.

Funny how when the shoe is on the other foot, it pinches.