Last year, a friend of mine explained that he was having doubts about becoming a teacher because “Common Core scares the Hell out of me.” Until recently, I had heard the term tossed around in my classes, but never really formed a true opinion about it. However, I knew that it was a term that most parents and educators hated. For those unfamiliar with the Common Core initiative, it is defined as “a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.” Based off of this definition, Common Core doesn’t sound so bad. It seems like it prepares students for the “real world” and allows children from all backgrounds the opportunity to gain a decent education. So, why are adults so afraid of it?
Unfortunately, parents are not pleased with Common Core because they are afraid their children will not benefit from it. For example, Common Core math teaches students “alternative” ways to solve word problems, and children are penalized if they solve said problems in a different way. For example, a word problem on a test explains that Carole reads 28 pages of a book on Monday and 103 pages on Tuesday. Is 75 pages a reasonable answer for how many more pages Carole read on Tuesday than on Monday?“ Many people would assume that simple subtraction should be used, yet Common Core requires students to estimate instead. In another problem, a student draws six rows with four lines in each row to symbolize that 4×6=24. This child is also penalized because they did not draw six rows of four. Examples like these are upsetting parents because not only it is teaching children that there is only one way to solve a problem, but the Common Core “rules” for math are so specific that parents are having trouble helping children with their homework because older generations have learned math differently. Side note, I can officially classify myself as old because I was never taught Common Core math, so that’s scary.
Common Core is similar to eating candy for dinner every night. Sure, it sounds great in theory, but once you put this plan into motion, you wind up doing more harm than good. Aside from not being able to help their children with homework, parents also believe that the curriculum surrounding Common Core is “asking teachers to teach something that is incredibly complicated to kids who aren’t ready for it.“ Naturally, parents want to protect their children from anything that can cause them distress, and having young students being exposed to something they aren’t ready for can cause a serious amount of stress. The notion that Common Core can actually be dangerous to students is not just a myth. Psychologists from New York have conducted research on test anxiety and reported that: “test anxiety appears to have risen since the advent of the Common Core Learning Standards. Six in 10 school psychologists (61 percent) said the level of test anxiety has increased since the inception of the state’s grades 3-8 tests aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards. Conversely, none of the survey respondents said the level of test anxiety had decreased since implementation of the Common Core standards”. As a future educator, it’s discouraging to see that tests are having such a negative impact on children. During the elementary school years, children should only fear trivial things, like the monsters under their beds, and their siblings eating the last cookie; not schoolwork. Although this study was limited to New York students, it is more than likely that students in other states are also feeling the same amounts of anxiety. If children are feeling this anxious while taking a test, it’s obvious that they will not perform as well, which will only add to their anxiety and lower test scores.
So I guess we fear Common Core for several reasons. We fear it because it’s limiting children. We fear it because it’s causing children to become more apprehensive about test taking. We fear it because it bites. Okay, that last statement isn’t true, but the New York Times does claim that test scores have been dropping as a result of Common Core, and that’s something to be afraid of.
This article was written by Kim Dilisio, a writer for dusk magazine.