Carol Burris, recognized high school principal from Long Island, New York, sees students who tell her they don’t want to go to school anymore. She attributes this directly to the way New York is utilizing Common Core.
New York, one of the 45 states plus the District of Columbia to sign on to Common Core since 2010, chose not to wait for the official Common Core exams to debut in 2015. Instead, last year New York began testing its students on the new standards.
The result is a number of frustrated students, parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians. Even the statewide teachers’ union has backed off from supporting Common Core for the time being because of the manner in which it has been applied.
As Al Baker of the New York Times writes it, “Teachers said they had not been fully trained in the new curriculums, and had not received new textbooks and teaching materials; many still did not have them in the fall. As the tests changed, the scores plummeted: Less than a third of the state’s students passed.”
Some public school second graders in New York, after studying the Common Core curriculum, are now giving plausible responses to questions such as, “Why did ancient Athens adopt Athena, not Poseidon, as the source of its name?”
First graders are excited to parrot answers to questions about the similarities between farming techniques in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. This is impressive.
But how many of these same students have actually had the opportunity to plant seeds in the ground and nurture them to the point of appreciating their fragrance or harvesting their fruit?
Does one believe these children or their peers can describe what makes a good friend or how to choose one? What makes someone popular? Is school helping them understand how to settle a disagreement or how to avoid prejudging people? Are they learning the difference between right and wrong and how to recognize and cope with peer pressure?
Just as important, are they learning how to discover and hone their personal skills and talents by using their hands to create things, to make music, and to share? Are they still learning about their own community, how it works, and how we get involved it its improvement?
If we hope for our children to still want to go to school as they reach the high school years, we must endeavor to continuously make school relevant to the lives they live and hope to live – as well as to create an organized and unified system of meaningful testing for our nation’s students.