Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Common Core Is So Wrong for Louisiana

In February I wrote a post for this blog predicting that the common core would be a disaster for Louisiana. This opinion piece in the New York Times confirms my conclusion that this standard is wrong for most of our public schools and particularly wrong for Louisiana. This untested elitist curriculum is sure to make our students and teachers look like failures when really it is the standard that is wrong.

The reformers love to say that if we just "raise the bar" our students will rise to the challenge and learn much more.  They confidently state that the only reason many of our students perform poorly on national tests is that we, the educators, are guilty of "the soft bigotry of low expectations".  John White purposely boxed the entire Louisiana education system into a corner recently by making the politically correct statement that "our Louisiana children are just as smart as the students in other states." (and therefore by implication deserve the same high standards). My opinion is that John White knows very little about Louisiana children and is not qualified to make this or any other judgement about our students.

I think the adoption of the common core is like the case of a 10th grade PE class where the instructor is told by the high command in the central office that he must raise the bar for the high jump and expect all students to clear it by the end of the year. A typical 10th grade class is comprised of students whose height varies from as short as 5 ft 0 inches  to as tall as 6 ft 4 in. The body mass index of the class members will also vary greatly from students who are lean and fit to students who are seriously overweight.

To expect all of these students to clear the same high jump bar is ridiculous. In looking over this typical class we have no trouble understanding why we should not expect all to perform the same. If the bar is set at a height of 5ft 8inches for all and a student who weighs 220 pounds and is 5ft 2 inches tall would simply be crushed if told that he much jump over a bar that is set 6 inches over his head. No amount of training and practice will ever get him over that bar and it would be cruel to tell the teacher and the student that their futures depend on the student clearing that bar. There is no expert in physical education that would recommend such a stupid standard. Yet this is what is being done for academic subjects with the common core standard.

The developers of the common core have determined that all students whether they are college bound for a 4 year degree or career bound with training as a welder, mechanic or practical nurse, need exactly the same math standards. It is just as ridiculous to say that all of our students need to master quadratic equations as it is to say that the short overweight kid must jump over the same bar as the tall physically fit kid. Yet Arne Duncan and John White think this is a perfectly reasonable requirement.  This is what I call educational malpractice.

The New York Times editorial is just barely touching on the absurdity of these standards. The authors of the piece have just a small glimmer of understanding of how inappropriate these standards are for many of our students and they cannot imagine the damage this will do to our education system as students fail to meet this ill conceived standard. They did note however that the many elite private schools such as the one attended by Bill Gates and his children have no intention of adopting the common core.


Anonymous said...

common core ignores all the uniqueness of each child but then none of the decision makers sent their kids to public schools.
I wonder too what will happen now that we have spent years focusing on math and ELA and ignoring science and social studies. I suppose the pendulum of decision will just swing the other way but by the time it reaches science and social studies they will be so far behind. Social studies doesn't even have a state coordinator anymore, she retired. Our STEM office is gone. Anytime science and social studies teachers try to emphasize the importance of their classes we are told that we need to focus on and support ELA and Math. Don't those in BR know that all the core classes support each other and are necessary? I have plenty of math and literacy to teach and support in science but little time with all the pullouts, motivational assemblies, ice-cream socials for students who read so many books, intensive math and reading assistance, lunch with the principal for students who pass EAGLE tests or raise their scores, careers classes, various benchmarking tests in English and math, and all the other focusing we do.
By the time they get all these wonderful fatal programs established the schools and teachers will be gone and our students further behind then they are even though they are not as far behind as the folks in BR would have you believe.
The surgery will be a success but the patient will have died.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of teachers who feel as you do. Join the BadAss Teachers Association. Louisiana has their own chapter.