Friday, March 7

Regarding Common Core

So my facebook feed is blowing up with friends upset about Common Core standards that have been/are being implemented in the public school system. Recently the following link was posted and before I responded that it was crap (because I went to public school and went through standardized testing) I asked a trusted friend who teaches in the public school system if this situation was in fact true. Please read her answer. It addresses the fears and frustrations of standardized testing exceedingly well. (By the way, she and I attend church within the same denomination, before you presume that she is is a liberal talking head...she's not :D)

My email to her:

This smells fishy to me. 5 year olds being asked about division?

Can you tell me if this is just good old fashioned bull crap? Or are they really doing standardized tests in public school for kindergarteners?

Her Response:

I'm going to try to answer this as objectively as possible. I have mixed feelings about standardized tests, so take that into consideration.

Under the new common core, kindergarten is assessed in reading and math. However, this article seems to be a bit on the histrionic side. It starts with an awful photo, which the author admits was a snapshot of one moment in time when her otherwise happy go lucky daughter was struggling with two math problems. I ask you: what kid LIKES struggle? What child happily works through math problems they've done wrong? I don't know any, and I teach gifted kids. To quote the author "She is a fighter with a resilient spirit. It crushes me to see her cry; to see her struggle. My daughter deserves a happy childhood." The insinuation here is that her struggle with math is somehow jeopardizing her happy childhood. Like I said, histrionics.

Research shows that when kids aren't allowed to struggle, bad things happen. Kids somehow associate intelligence with things coming easily - if I'm smart, I shouldn't have to work for it. THAT kind of attitude doesn't prepare kids for the reality that waits outside the front door. If mom shields baby from the big bad math problem that threatens her happy childhood, I'm not sure how baby is going to cope with any type of setback.  This story is an interesting counter to the author's implicit message. As a matter of fact, my 7th graders read this article together and made videos about it. This one is my favorite.

Anyway, your original question was about testing kindergarteners. I'm not sure which states currently do and don't test kindergarteners, but my understanding is that under Common Core, this will be the norm. The idea of testing kindergarten kids is completely abhorrent to me, but the idea of standardized testing in general is something I generally support. Kindergarten? No way. Older grade levels? Yes.

The problem with standardized testing is illustrated in the article if you can get past the blatant emotional appeal of the darling babies with their tiny teeth and big bows who cannot operate a computer. The issue here is that the test isn't accurately assessing what the kids actually know - do they know how to determine what an equal share is? Maybe, but if they aren't familiar with the word "division" we won't be able to correctly ascertain whether or not they understand the concept of equal shares. If they can't hear what's being said in the big headphones, we can't measure what they know. What is being described here is a problem with PROCEDURE. Is it wrong to ask a kindergartener what they know, and use that as ONE piece of a puzzle that determines the effectiveness of the school? No. That's not wrong. However, the way we deliver that assessment needs to be done more authentically than what is described here. Authentic assessment for a kindergartener looks like an adult sitting down with the child and asking him or her to help divide a cookie into three equal parts. The adult can determine whether or not the kid understands division, and the kid gets a cookie. Everybody freaking wins. But then you've got to pay that adult out of a budget that's already stretched thin, and there are a zillion kindergarteners which requires a million certified, unbiased adults, and now you've got a logistical problem. So we use a crappy test on crappy computers and get crappy results and wonder why kids hate our crappy education system.

Standardized testing has to be done. It has to. Otherwise, schools get to do whatever they want, teach whatever they want, however effectively (or ineffectively, as the case may be) they want. Standardized testing is necessary for accountability. The way we do standardized testing TOTALLY SUCKS and is a total joke when it comes to measuring understanding in ALL KIDS. We need to change it, but we don't need to abandon it.

More info than you asked for? Probably. :)

1 comment:

Addie said...

I spoke to a teacher about Common Core stuff too, and I was pleased with her answer. I'm not happy with all of its tenets, or how it began, but I cannot discount the truly excellent teachers implementing things from the top down in loving ways to bless and educate my kids. And, as she pointed out, it will constantly be tweaked, refined, and probably eventually thrown out. Education is an ever-shifting field, and the US constantly compares ourselves to countries that we should not compare ourselves to, because we are a huge melting pot of so much and so many. We approach things differently than Asian countries, and we do not have the homogenous nature of Finland (little to no immigration there). Anyway, I have been thinking about this A LOT lately and trying to come to a better understanding than histrionic blog posts (or blanket acceptance of everything private entities do under the guise of the federal government) can give me.

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