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Opinion Article by Jennifer Mitchell
Many people have heard the term or phrase Common Core a lot in the last few years, but not very many people know what it is, what it is supposed to do and what it is actually doing. Common Core is a nationwide set of education standards currently just for mathematics and English Language Arts, but soon to be other areas as well; such as history and science. Part of the glamour with Common Core is that a child will be able to move from one state to another and be able to continue in their education without feeling completely lost, nor without being too far ahead or too far behind. However, since this is not a mandatory education reform, certain states have opted not to participate; thus nulling the idea.
Common Core is being implemented so quickly in our nation, with no long term test trials to test its effectiveness and results. Anything that affects our entire nation so drastically should not be taken so lightly. It should be given adequate time and proof that this is the best way to move forward with America’s education system. Until they have taken the necessary steps to ensure that this is the best thing for our nation’s youth, Common Core should be repealed and reevaluated with local governments still overseeing and ultimately having control over what is being taught.
Education is currently ran and formed by local and state governments. Common Core does not change that per se, instead of making it a mandatory process, they offered large incentives for all the states that chose to participate. Many saw the dollar signs and immediately chose to move forward with this in their states. However, many are now feeling the repercussions from this, being left with the need for costly necessities to get Common Core up and running, while lacking the funds to do this. There are currently over 40 states that have made the decision to allow Common Core in their schools and one state who has only accepted half of the curriculum.
Common Core is supposed to be making the youth of our country to be academically ready to enter college, yet their curriculum is forcing many schools to do the opposite by having them stop teaching algebra in the 8th grade and pushing it back until the 9th. This, in effect, doesn’t allow then to take algebra 2 in high school at all. This will be setting back the many students who either plan to or are currently take higher levels of math than algebra 2 in high school (The Common Core Math Standards: Are They a Step Forward or Backward?”).
Unfortunately this is not the only major change to the Common Core mathematics curriculum. Math will no longer be right or wrong, if you get the wrong answer and explain why you will receive credit. The Washington Post tells us that “Common core standards expect students to not just calculate the answer but also to explain how they arrived at the solution” (Layton). The new ways for subtraction is so complicated that even a gentleman with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering can’t figure out his elementary aged students’ homework. After an overly complicated way to find an answer to this equation 427 minus 316, they ask you to write a letter of explanation (Layton). Even more interesting is the fact that the only mathematician that was on the committee for common core and whom works for NASA wouldn’t even agree to their mathematics curriculum (Avramovich).
Language Arts are currently filled with classic literature, fiction and poems. If Common Core gets fully implemented without a reversal or revision then 50 percent of elementary students and a staggering 70 percent of high school students will see that their classic literature will be taken away and replaced with instruction manuals, biographies, memoirs essays, speeches and other informational texts (Gewertz). Education Week informs us what some of these informational texts consist of, “High-school-level suggestions, for instance, include FedViews, the newsletter of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; and “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management,” by the General Services Administration” (Gerwertz). This will be creating more work for the teachers, who will have to learn a whole new way to teach. The Common Core standards claim that these are suggestions and guidelines, leaving the choices up to the teacher. However, if they stray too far from the suggested material then their students won’t score as well, which will negatively reflect upon their teaching skills and ultimately put their job in danger.
The backing for Common Core in the works to change the ACT’s and SAT’s to reflect the new information being taught in a majority of the schools. What does this mean for the states who have opted out, or the ones who might opt out in the future? An article from American Secondary Education tells us that “Kids must pass the tests in order to get a high school diploma or admittance to college, if they haven’t studied a curriculum based on Common Core standards, they won’t score well on the tests” (Rycik). These students will now suffer because they didn’t read the instruction manuals the other students did, or because they weren’t able to answer simple math equations without an argument.
A large portion of the common core curriculum is standardized testing. Forcing children into more and more tests does not increase their intelligence. You can lead a child to knowledge but you can’t make him learn. In essence, they will just spend more time studying and practicing for these tests than learning, removing all the fun and enjoyment in the learning process. The American Educator says “The purpose of public education is at risk when everything about teaching and learning is reduced to a number or algorithm.” (Weingarten) This article also notes that teachers can and have lost their jobs due to poor reports from these tests. Teachers will now fear for their jobs, teaching and preparing only for these tests. The most alarming thing this article states is that these standardized tests actually aren’t even that accurate. In reference to standardized testing, Albert Einstein, a former member of the American Federation of Teachers once said “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything we count, counts” (Weingarten).
For many parents, part of their nightly routine is to help their eager children with their homework. Regrettably, this will just be one more thing that Common Core will be, or already has, stripped us of. Frustration in the home will only ensue as parents are no longer able to help their children with their homework, especially their elementary aged children. Some towns are trying to combat this problem by holding parent night to allow the parents to learn their child’s homework. The problem with this is that it’s costly and time consuming for both parties. It is also something that is not being offered everywhere, so what about those who don’t have a class available to them. They will just continue to live frustrated and children will not finish their homework creating a snowball effect.
It is a common misconception that that America’s education system just doesn’t match up to that of our foreign friends. An Academic Journal claims that in 1983, “America’s Schools were inadequate and not globally competitive” (Wallender). Upon hearing this many people believe that some big changes need to be made within our education system. Should something be done, absolutely, but is Common Core “That Thing?” Is Common Core capable of bringing the US students up to par with the schools of other countries, or even other states, like California and Minnesota whose levels far exceed Common Core? According to another section of the same article in 2008, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel requires fluency by the 3rd grade in addition and subtraction and by the end of grade 5 they call for fluency in multiplication and division. This is the same requirement of California, and ironically enough Singapore and Korea. Grade 4 is when Japan and Hong Kong require fluency in multiplication and division. Yet the new education curriculum that is supposed to bring American students up to the education level of foreign countries and prepare our students for college and the work force, doesn’t require fluency in division until grade 6 (The Common Core Math Standards: Are They a Step Forward or Backward?).
In contrast, Knowledge Quest, paints quite a different picture; “Our international test scores have revealed that American international test scores are nowhere nearly as bad as critics claim and that they have not declined” (Krashen 2). Several other issues should be taken into consideration when comparing education level to that of other nations. One of those things that we should take a look at and could use to combat our education problem is our poverty rate.
America is an industrialized country, and we rank second-highest out of all industrialized countries for poverty, with a current rate of more than 23 percent. Stephen Krashen says that “When we control for the effects of poverty, American students rank near the top of the world” (2). Finland, only having a 5 percent child poverty rate, has consistent high scores. There is currently no indication that increasing national standards and tests actually increase the students’ knowledge or learning. The real solution to our educational system and problems isn’t Common Core, its combating poverty. “Studies have documented how poverty impacts school performance. Food insecurity, lack of health care, and lack of access to books, among other aspects of poverty, all have devastating effects on students’ ability to learn” (Krashen 3).
Food insecurity is when you have genuine concern for hunger and food, currently or for the future. This is what’s on poverty-stricken children’s mind. Living with this constant mind set affects so many aspects of the child’s life. They are more likely to have problems with emotional control, social behavior and slow language development, repeat grade levels, miss more days of school and struggle academically. The good news is that these effects don’t have to be permanent. Krashen points out that “When previously food-secure children experience food insecurity, their reading development slows down relative to food-secure children. But a change from food insecurity to food security can bring concomitant improvements…poor reading performance for food insecure children in the beginning grades was reversed if the household became food secure by 3rd grade” (3).
Another effect of poverty is the lack of an abundance of books. Often times the only place these children have books available to them is through the school’s library. However, poverty stricken areas and their schools are less likely to have a well-stocked library. When a child reads, especially for pleasure, it increases their overall literacy. Instead of pouring money into libraries, an indescribable important aspect of children’s lives, funds are actually being cut (Krashen 3).
Poverty has been around since the time of mankind. So how can we as a nation try to combat poverty now? While it will never be completely rid of, we can make a difference in these kids’ lives with increased support for food programs and sufficient libraries. How do we do that? Billions of dollars have already gone into the Common Core Curriculum, and who knows just how much more will be required, not only to implement it, but to keep it updated. These standardized tests that this curriculum weighs so heavy on, must all be completed online. The end cost of this could never be calculated because it is “A staggering expense, and one that promises to increase as systems require updating, replacement, and even complete overhauls as progress is made in technology. All this effort and expense are planned, despite the fact that there is no evidence that standards will help, that new tests will help” (Krashen 5). Computer industries will reap the benefits, and the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill, all the while the students are no better off.
Avramovich, M.” Once Seized, Fits All.” Touchstone: A Journal Of Mere Christianity 27.5
(2014): 24-27. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Dec. 2014
Gewertz, Catherine. “Interpretations Differ on Common Core’s Nonfiction Rule.” Education Week 30 Jan. 2013: 1. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.
Krashen, Stephen. “THE COMMON CORE. (Cover Story).” Knowledge Quest 42.3 (2014): 36-45. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
Layton, Lyndsey. “Parents go back to school for Common Core math.” Washington Post 1 Nov. 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 8 Nov. 2014.
RYCIK, JAMES A. “News & Views.” American Secondary Education 42.2 (2014): 80-82. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
“The common core math standards: are they a step forward or backward?” Education Next12.3 (2012): 44+. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
Wallender, Jennifer. “The Common Core State Standards In American Public Education: Historical Underpinnings And Justifications.” Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin 80.4 (2014): 7-11. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
Weingarten, Randi. “Teaching and learning over testing.” American Educator (2014): NA.Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.