Friday, May 16, 2014

Is a war brewing over Common Core?

On a very simplistic level, the goal of Common Core is to equally teach and test students, across the country, by grade level, in two critical areas of education: (1) language arts (reading, writing, and composition) and (2) mathematics.  I think most parents were sold Common Core on that simple basis.

But, what many parents are now just finding out is that Common Core is more about a new way of teaching.  One that supposedly teaches students to think more logically and, as a result, be more inquiring and deliberative in any conclusions that they come to.  For example, when asked what 2+2 equals, a student can't just answer with a number.  Now, that student must explain how they got to that answer; even if they got it right.  Essentially, learning by rote has gone out the window.  That is why Comedian Louis C.K. -- a very outspoken critic of Common Core -- jokingly told David Letterman, in his recent Late Show appearance, that Common Core asks stupid questions like: "Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?" He also said his daughters used to love math and now they just cry.

While C.K.'s example was comic exaggeration, the fact that his daughters are left frustrated, exposes the bigger problem: You can't teach logic or, for that matter, what is illogical.  Logic is an innate ability that each of us possesses in widely varying degrees.  For decades, the very foundations of mathematics, like the "times tables," were always learned by rote so that, even the least logical student, could succeed.  The best example I can give you of just how variable logic can be comes from the classic kindergarten puzzle that matches varying shaped pegs with their corresponding holes.   Some kids will do quite well at it, while others will give up in defeat.  That could be why C.K.'s daughters are left in tears.  For many parents, too, their frustration with Common Core probably hinges on their lack of strong logical skills. So, too, are why some teachers are find Common Core intolerable.

Right now there is growing anger over Common Core.  Not just from students and parents but also from some prominent teachers.  In fact, the anger level got so high in Indiana that the state just dropped it; with many other states possibly weighing that same decision.  In my opinion, Common Core is doomed to fail because it doesn't inspire students but, instead, defeats them.

Internationally, the test scores of U.S. students in math, science and language arts continue to pale in comparison to the scores of students in the other 34 leading industrialized nations; with the ranking of 34th out of 34 being a not so distant result in the next decade or so.  If we want to be number one in education in the world, we need to understand what the top countries are doing to warrant their success.

We didn't need a handful of educational elites to come up with an untested and what appears to be a failing educational process called Common Core. Because, if it turns out that it isn't really educating our children, then a whole generation, (or, possibly, generations) of children could wind up having their intellectual development lost in the process.  Are we then supposed to send millions of adults back to second grade if Common Core is determined to be a failure?

A change like this should not have been broadly adopted by 44 states unless it was proven successful in small scale pilot programs, from one-room school houses to inner city schools to upscale suburban institutions.  In doing so, much of today's anger against Common Core would have been detected early on and the system could have been adjusted accordingly.


Actually, Louis C.K. was right about Common Core:

A ridiculous Common Core test for first graders:

Open the floodgates? Indiana becomes first state to scrap Common Core:

U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test:

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