Joseph Ganem, a professor of physics at Loyola University Maryland, wrote a terrific op/ed in the Balitmore Sun. He points out something that should have been obvious to those writing the Common Core. Most kids simply are not ready in Kindergarten to do the work that they are expected to do with Common Core.
Recent evaluations of the state’s preschoolers have determined that only 47 percent are ready for kindergarten, compared to 83 percent judged ready last year. This drastic drop isn’t the result of an abrupt, catastrophic decline in the cognitive abilities of our children. Instead it results from a re-definition of kindergarten readiness, which now means being able to succeed academically at a level far beyond anything expected in the past. For example, a child entering kindergarten is now expected to know the difference between informative/explanatory writing and opinion writing. The concern is that preschoolers without that knowledge will not succeed at meeting the new higher-level Common-Core standards. However, I think a more pressing concern is: Why do we have educational standards that are not aligned with even the most basic facts of human development? Clearly these test results show that the problem is with the standards, not the children.
Educational attainment is part of human development, and fundamentally this is a biological process that cannot be sped up. We cannot wish away our biological limitations because we find them inconvenient. Children will learn crawling, walking, listening, talking and toilet training, all in succession at developmentally appropriate ages. Once in school, for skills that require performing a physical task, that are in what Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies as the “psychomotor domain,” it is understood that children will only learn when they are physically and developmentally ready. No one expects four-year olds to type fluently on a computer keyboard, play difficult Chopin Etudes on the piano, prepare elaborate meals in the kitchen or drive a car.
However, for skills in what Bloom calls the “cognitive domain,” the school curriculum has become blind not only to the progression of normal child development but also to natural variations in the rate that children develop. It is now expected that pre-school children should be able to grasp sophisticated concepts in mathematics and written language. In addition, it is expected that all children should be at the same cognitive level when they enter kindergarten, and proceed through the entire grade-school curriculum in lock step with one another. People, who think that all children can learn in unison, have obviously never worked with special needs children or the gifted and talented.
Ganem points out that Common Core doesn’t speed up child development. But hey I’m sure advocates think these standards are so great they can overcome what has been understood by every child psychologist, child development specialist and parent for years.