******************************************** A response in regard to the CCSS in the article below.. Response is from Susan Smith, a fifth-grade teacher in Indiana, at firstname.lastname@example.org ******************************************** RE: COMMON CORE STANDARDS
I am a 5th grade teacher in a small, rural school corporation, and our corporation has taken a pro-active approach towards the CCS that Indiana's D.O.E. has readily adopted. We are in the process of matching where the CCS and IN-Standards meet, and where we need to add content.
Unfortunately, as we try to blend and match the CCS with our State Standards, we are seeing, especially in the Math core, that the curriculum content has been pushed down nearly a full a grade level. This means the CCS shows mostly current 6th grade content being taught at the 5th grade level, current 5th grade content at 4th grade level, 4th grade at 3rd grade level, and so forth. The way the concepts will need to be taught, means Math facts, for example, (Add., Sub., Multi. & Div.) must be mastered by the 3rd grade, for students to understand the concepts presented in 4th grade. AND, if students don't have them long before 5th grade, they will be totally lost and well behind.
Unfortunately, that first year the CCS fully comes into play, students and teachers will be on overload, having to learn 2 year's worth of content in one year. Granted, most concepts overlap some each in grade level, but to be able to master that content in that first year of CCS, will definitely be a challenge.
The other thing that really bothers me is that pushing the content down grade levels, means in many cases, the students are not ready, age-level-wise, or maturity-wise, to comprehend those concepts. To get it all in within 13 years (including Kindergarten), and to hopefully have that student college ready when they finish high school, means we are going to have to put more money into pre-school and have those students ready at Kindergarten age for 1st grade material. Many, at the ages of 4-5, do not yet have the fine motor skills, or brain abilities, to comprehend material that they should be doing at age 6-7. And this follows all the way through their elementary years. We cannot teach concepts their young brains are not mature enough to comprehend.
I guess I'm wondering, what was so wrong with my education in the 60's and 70's? I did not just learn test facts and content beyond my age abilities so I could try to pass a state/government mandated test. I was taught content to my appropriate age. My education taught me to think and problem-solve, and become a life-long learner. I learned to become a productive, well-educated citizen.
Here I am, 54 years-old, and after a life in the business world, I'm now a fairly new, teacher of only 5 years.
Today, as a teacher, I struggle to teach the thinking and problem-solving skills and concepts I was taught, because I am so engrossed in pushing test content that is quickly rising beyond my students' age-appropriate capabilities. I wonder, who is running this show? What early-education expert approved this?
I understand the needs to meet the challenges of technology and the global life our future generations will be challenged with. I embrace all of that. But when I see our education system changing from what it used to be: educating and producing creative thinkers and problem-solvers, into: creating and producing test takers, I am greatly concerned. We don't need test-takers. We need innovators, and people who can reason, develop concepts, and communicate in the world. Because we are so involved in a global economy and business world, our future generations will need to continue to be those broad thinkers, problem solvers, and communicators.
We teachers need to teach, not just content, concepts, and facts to be able to pass a test. Our greater educational goal should be to teach the ability to use those concepts and ideas. Our education ethics and capabilities MUST meet the needs of our students. Those needs should not just be to pass a test, nor meet the needs of a bureaucrat's content time table. We just need to be able to teach.
Three years can seem like a lot of time or a little, depending on your perspective. I'm betting that when it comes to the Common Core State Standards, most teachers feel like three years isn't a lot.
Three years from now is when the assessments designed for the standards are supposed to be fully operational. Assuming those tests end up being faithful reflections of the standards, students will be tested on how well they've mastered the expectations outlined there. And those results, in turn, are supposed to reflect whether 11th graders are ready for college and careers, and whether younger students are on track to be.
We've written before about the educator corps' own journey toward readiness. It's a seriously big job to reach millions of teachers and principals nationwide with the key messages of the standards, let alone to reach deeply enough to change long-held practice. And that's where the weird, contradictory sense of time comes in: is three years enough or too little to get that job done?
A couple of posts by my colleagues recently put me in mind of the questions hanging over the professional-development piece of the common standards. Lesli Maxwell reported recently that teachers in California don't exactly feel prepared to manage the bridging required to allow English learners to access the standards. And Erik Robelen reported last week on a new study that found, among other things, that most teachers know about the standards, but few feel fully prepared to teach them.
The study showed half of teachers feeling "somewhat prepared," with about one quarter on either side of that feeling "very prepared" or "somewhat/very unprepared."
So the optimistic spin is that the vast middle chunk shows how far the system has come since the standards were unveiled nearly two years ago. But the pessimistic spin is that there is still a long way to go. Having just come back from a trip to Kentucky, where I watched the intense focus on the common core play out in two school districts, I can tell you that there is some very passionate work going on out there. How far that reaches, and how it takes hold, will bear watching.
************************************************** -- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University 625 Wham Drive Mail Code 4610 Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: email@example.com