Dear Representative… first installment against the Common Core

My state representative, Dianne Hesselbein, sent out a message to constituents asking for feedback on the Common Core.  This is installment #1.

Dear Dianne,

Over a month ago you asked for insight on the Common Core, and the request has lingered.  Ironically, demands of the classroom kept me temporarily from writing to defend the classroom.

Common Core Standards offer some assets: they give educators across states a common framework and a common language, which, given the mobility of America, is a boon; they set expectations for student achievement, which, given the diversity of American education processes, can help lower achievement gaps, particularly those across states; and they include curricular items that other standards and movements, such as No Child Left Behind, omitted.  Pointedly, the Common Core includes writing standards, an essential skill and a very means of thinking.

An example of a benefit of Common Core is that in my previous school district, we floundered to develop scope and sequence of grammatical skills.  The Common Core provided a framework, and we wrote an excellent sequence of skills, clarifying grade-level expectations. It was beautiful.

However, I have dire worries about the Common Core, and the foremost one relates to that “beautiful” set of grammatical skills.  Writing is developmental.   Good writing comes in steps, where one skill must be in place before another can develop.  It is not particularly useful, for instance, to teach semi-colons and colons to students who primarily use simple sentences.  The ability to use semi-colons is not dependent on the writer’s age, as the Common Core would assert; the ability to use semi-colons effectively depends on the writer’s ability.  To be taught is one thing.  To understand another.

The Common Core demands all students in a grade meet a standard, believing in age-based skills rather than developmental.  The Common Core founders, in the interviews and literature I read, dodge that issue, implying if kids are raised on standards, gaps will not occur.

This attitude alternatively frustrates or outrages me. It assumes teachers who have gathered in and loved kindergartners who did not yet know colors did not have high standards.  It assumes that teachers who welcome students who haven’t spoken English before did not have high standards.  It assumes that teachers who empathetically listen and problem-solve for kids in crisis do not have high standards.

The Common Core groups all kids by grade level, but we as educators know better.  The children we teach and love are diverse, and that diversity must be accounted for.  The Common Core blames teachers, inferring a lack of standards causes current and real issues.  I assert the culprit is generational poverty, social-fragmentation, and situational crises.

I do not abhor the Common Core;  I refer to them as a touchstone.  But overall, I question them, their process, and their effects.

This is installment one; more objections to the Common Core to come.

Thank you so much for reaching out for feedback and for listening,

Kris Cody-Johnson

Twenty-year veteran teacher and

Mother of two school-aged children

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One thought on “Dear Representative… first installment against the Common Core

  1. Hi Kris,

    Luckily (or perhaps the opposite?) we Social Studies teachers do not have our own, new Common Core standards; instead, we have the WI Model Academic Standards (which are very old), the Literacy in History/Social Studies Standards (from the Common Core), and the new C3 Framework for Social Studies. I’ve been examining the C3 for our department, and I must say that I really like them. I would even go so far as to say that our district should look into using them to guide our curriculum.

    At any rate, keep up the great work and fight the good fight.

    Jason

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