Kentucky Teacher: Common Core “Is Like Rearranging the Deck Chairs”

Kentucky Education Commissioner Tom Holliday
Kentucky Education Commissioner Tom Holliday

I just read an interesting article on Kentucky’s pioneering the Common Core State Standards and the mixed results they were seeing.  The Common Core has plenty of skeptics:

Much like the Kentucky reforms of two decades ago, Common Core comes with a slew of state mandates about content and keeps the emphasis on testing as a measure of school success. While some schools and teachers, like the ones at Liberty, have fully bought into the changes and have access to resources to help them make those changes happen, in other places Common Core is seen as more of a top-down content shift rather than something that will produce significant changes in teaching.

“It’s kind of like rearranging the deck chairs on a very big boat,” fourth-grade teacher Justin Elliott, from Engelhard Elementary School in Louisville, said of switching standards. “Sometimes the way we use Common Core puts us further down the right path, and sometimes the way we use the Common Core turns into a way to know, ‘Okay, what am I going to drill them on this week?’”

The report also notes how younger students are being impacted:

On day five, Jason Cornett’s fifth-grade math class at Flat Lick Elementary School in Knox County was working on problems in pairs. While his first class of the day had generally gotten the right answers, his second class was struggling. At times, they failed to grasp the new concept and so they added before dividing, for instance. Other times, they were stumped by multiplication and division. Many used their fingers for addition and subtraction.

“They’re still having trouble mastering the basics and you’re trying to add stuff on top,” said Cornett. “Over all [Common Core] is a positive change, but it’s been hard on some of the kids in the middle of the transition.”

Even a teacher who is supportive of the Common Core is concerned about data collection and testing:

Three hours away in Louisville, Jeffrey Elliott (Justin Elliott’s brother) reminded his first graders at the high-poverty Slaughter Elementary School not to use their fingers to add 2 and 3. Instead, they drew dots or tally marks on a whiteboard and counted them. They then shared and critiqued each other’s work, looking for errors such as a 3 written backwards.

Elliott likes that under Common Core he has more freedom to teach interdisciplinary lessons now and make learning a social experience. “It’s letting us teach in a manner we could only pay lip service to before,” he said. “We’re starting to teach kids to think as people rather than as students.”

But although Elliott is mostly excited about the potential for the new standards to create “democratic, thoughtful, critical thinking” citizens, he’s concerned about the amount of testing and data collecting that he worries will accompany Common Core. “They don’t need to get data collected from them 100 times a day,” he said.

Read the rest.