Sunday, February 16, 2014

Discussing Common Core at My Church's Lunch (and Thereafter)

My church had a pizza party after services today, in honor of my pastor’s birthday.  A topic of conversation that came up more than once at the party was the new Common Core educational standards.  There was a couple whose daughter is in kindergarten, and they were saying that their daughter had spelling tests and was learning number patterns (i.e., 2, 4, 6, 9, etc.) at school.  A lady who has a degree in education and teacher’s certification, and who works as a tutor for many at-risk youth, had problems with the new Common Core standards.  Essentially, she believed that the instructions were too complicated for the teachers, and that the standards were too high for the students.  She noted that first-graders were required under the new standards to know about probability, and she had problems with how Common Core math requires students to show their work, for why should they have to show their work after they gained enough proficiency to do certain steps in their heads?  She was also talking about circles in one of the Common Core books that she was reading, and the circles were intended to appeal to visual learners.  She thought that the circles were complicating matters.

I talked with my Mom after the pizza party.  My Mom was enrolled in a master’s program in education years ago, and she supports the new Common Core standards.  She said that students should know about probability and spelling at a young age in order to compete with other countries, and she thought that little kids who knew how to use I-Pads can learn how to spell and do math problems.  She also stated that requiring students to show their work would discourage them from cheating (i.e., getting the answer off the Internet).  My Mom also referred to a teacher she knew who supported the Common Core standards, stating that kids should know this stuff, anyway.

The problems that people at my church were expressing about Common Core differed from the right-wing critiques that I have read of the program.  The right-wingers I read online argue that Common Core is not academically rigorous enough, whereas people at my church seemed to be saying that it was too advanced and rigorous for kindergartners and first-graders.  The two groups would probably agree, however, that Common Core is an example of the government imposing a bunch of inflexible rules and standards.

I did not know enough about Common Core to offer an opinion.  I had read about it, but I myself never had any interaction with it.  It does seem to me that Common Core requires kindergartners and first-graders to learn more than I had to learn when I was a kindergartner and first-grader.  I didn’t have spelling tests in kindergarten, and I didn’t know what probability was as a first-grader!  I am not absolutely sure if previous generations learned those things as kindergartners and first-graders, but I am doubtful.  Hopefully, teachers will be able to impart this knowledge, in a manner that is accessible and understandable to their students.

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