Sunday, February 02, 2014

One Parent's Experience (and Thoughts) on Common Core

Update: wanted to add a link to a Pennsylvania teacher's PD day on Common Core.  Eye-opening reading and you will now know the CC theme " Kids these days" and that an official sponsor of the standards is Office Depot.  Long but detailed and from a teacher's POV (which I think is important to the discussion.)

End of update.

From reader Kristen King's blog, My Daughter, the Guinea Pig:

We’re a very mathy family. We all learned math the way human beings learn things — that is, by making it a fun part of our everyday activities. But this year, my daughter is a guinea pig for the new national experiment that is called the Common Core standards. Her class is using a new curriculum designed specifically for the Common Core, “My Math,” and she hates it. I’m hearing her say, “I don’t like math,” and I’m concerned. She still likes math, really, but only when we mess around with it as a family. Her homework is procrastination and resentment and sometimes tears.

The Common Core standards came to us by a fairly strange route. Sixty people wrote them without public input, and only one of them was a teacher. And there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Common Core, particularly the assessments designed for them.

I’m trying to keep an open mind. As one of my kids’ teachers told me, they’re simply one more set of standards. I do like one thing about these new standards: they tell us what our kids are supposed to be learning.

But what exactly are they supposed to be learning? Mathematical reasoning, the boring way. What makes it boring is the frequent testing to make sure kids have learned each individual concept, which appears to mean that each individual concept takes priority over a holistic understanding. Even worse: there is national pressure to base teachers’ job evaluations on kids’ mastery of these standards.
Also, it looks a lot like math fact fluency is being pushed aside. I’ve looked at the standards many times, and they do say what kind of fluency kids are supposed to have, but as one standard among many. And I’m not seeing it in the curriculum. My kids, and other kids whose parents I’ve talked to, are not getting the five minutes of math fact practice per day that they need to learn the facts.

Here are the standards, if you want to know more. 

And here are some examples of math lessons that teach to these standards. The National Education Association (NEA) teamed up with some company or other to bring together lots of teachers to share the curriculum that they use in classrooms. So this curriculum is free online for browsing, which makes it a godsend for parents who want to understand what their kids are learning in class. I keep looking and looking for math fact fluency exercises, but I’m not seeing them.

I do realize that there are lots of things I don’t understand about the standards, the way they’re being implemented in curriculum, and the way my kids’ teachers are handling them in class.

But I sure am sorry my daughter has to be the guinea pig.


Anonymous said...

Is the problem with the Common Core standards, the implementation, or with the MyMath curriculum?

Hard to say, isn't it?

APP@Lincoln just started using the MyMath curriculum (does this parent have a child at Lincoln?) and they implemented the new texts in a straight two-year ahead fashion - meaning 1st graders start with the 3rd grade texts after covering who knows what in kindergarten. Traditionally, elementary APP compacted the curriculum - covering 1st and 2nd grade material in 1st grade, and working up to almost 2 years ahead by the end of 5th grade.

So, take this one parent's experience with a grain of salt. Is the curriculum a poor fit for accelerated learners? Do they need to adjust and compact the materials? Do they need to create a better transition for those new to APP?

I think it's about more than CCSS.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Melissa.

Go Hawks!


Anonymous said...

Speaking of CCSS and no public input. In WA the Legislature in 6696 wrote that Randy Dorn would submit a full report on CCSS impacts on or before January 1 2011. Dorn did not do that. Thus violating a law written for him. Report came out on 1 30 2011 less than a week before the big house hearing on CCSS. Few if any in the general public had time to read the report. Was the lack of reading the same for House Rep's on the Ed committee?

Rep. Brad Klippert dropped a bill within 4 days of the hearing to postpone CCSS adoption for 2 years as he believed there was no advantage in acting hastily.

House ed chair Sharon Tamiko Santos refused to give it a hearing saying it was not timely.

There you have it. Dorn violates state law producing report less than a week before hearing.
Klippert drops a bill two weeks before the end of period to drop bills and Santos says Klippert is not timely.

Gates Foundation runs the Ed Show and laws don't matter.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

My biggest concern about CCSS is not the standards themselves, but how they will be implemented in Seattle schools. The standards are not curriculum - the district still needs to base the standards on some kind of coherent, sequential curriculum.

What I'm seeing in my children's middle school language arts classes is that the content is becoming more and more random, but the assignment will have a CCSS standard affixed to it as to legitimize it. There seems to be a push to cover CCSS, but it's being done in an absence of solid content.


Peter Smyth said...

It is the implementation, but the CCSS were developed with this very implementation in mind: testing, profitable curricula, data collection.
The CCSS math standards have the potential to support a rich mathematical experience.
But that won't be allowed to happen.not in this ed reform environment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'll add a link to one teacher's experience at a PD day put on by the "Common Core Institute" that I believe speaks to Skeptic and Peter's points.

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