Common Core, Common Problems

As someone who is a bit out of the loop with American education standards for grade school, I’ve been doing some reading up on the Common Core Standards that have caused so much controversy. Personally, I’m torn on whether or not this is something beneficial. On paper the system sounds great as it hopes to do what I’ve mentioned in a previous article: to find ways to connect what kids are learning to real-world happenings. But in practice the system has been met with mixed reviews, as is expected when change happens. It seems like most of the issues are stemming from bridging the gap between previous standards and new ones, and that educators are having a hard time figuring out what lessons are best to achieve those curriculum standards. But the biggest fear with the Common Core is that people seem to be afraid of those ever-important test results.

Now, we’ve already delved into the many flaws of standardized testing, so it’s no surprise that upcoming results are weighing heavy on people’s minds. If a school does well, does it prove that the system works? If a school does poorly does that mean the system failed? Again, none of that really matters, as standardized tests still can only measure so much depending on whether the individual child is a good test-taker.

But the most jarring bit about the Common Core State Standards Initiative to me comes from the slogan on the webpage: “Prepping America’s Students for College and Career.”

That’s a very generalized goal for millions of very different students. Not a bad one necessarily, but not readily achievable for everyone either, which brings me back to the issue of educational privilege. If a student isn’t motivated to go to college, or doesn’t have the resources, then it wouldn’t matter to him or his family whether or not the school he attends meets state educational requirements. Also, what about the students who really want to go into a trade career where a high school diploma is enough? I know that higher education is a wonderful thing that people should experience, but I also know that college isn’t for everyone. And as much as we hope to have a nation of higher-educated people, that just isn’t a reality (yet?).

The problem with a generalized standard goal is that we are ultimately forcing every student into one box, ready to be shipped out to some ambiguous place of “higher learning.” But not every college or career path is the same, and there are simply too many options out there to be able to include all subject possibilities. Ideally, having the capacity to apply real-world situations to homework problems would remedy this, but not every child will be able to find a way to relate to some situations. If, say, a student has no idea how the stock exchange works, and has no desire to want to know, than all those math problems that deal with relating statistics or economics are worthless to her. And if she sees them as worthless to her future, than why would she put any effort into learning it? Now take that attitude and multiply it by millions of other students in other subjects with other economic standings and you see the dilemma.

Having a standard is great, but not knowing how to asses it for everyone is a problem. Education is not something that can easily be controlled by one big culture-biased bureaucratic system (especially if that system is only out to make money).

So what can we do? Is there any working solution out there that can help our students learn in the most effective matter? What are the most important things for students to learn while they are in school anyway? Share your personal stories on Common Core with us, and let us know if you think it’s beneficial or harmful to education.

Tracey Woodard
Tracey Woodard
tracey.woodard@franklinfound.org

<p>Our Senior contributor Tracey Woodard graduated in 2010 from Bucknell University with a BA in English – Creative Writing and Theater. An advid believer in the importance of public school education, she uses a mix of personal and learned experiences to express her thoughts on today’s most pressing education issues. She currently resides just outside of Philadelphia, PA.</p>

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