The American River Democrats welcomed two guests to our November meeting who spoke to us about the Common Core and what it means for our kids and teachers. They also cleared up some misconceptions and answered a lot of questions. Kelly Hillesland is a Teacher, and Carole Vargas is a Principal, both of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. They spoke on the history and background of Common Core, and cleared up some misconceptions about the program.
For example: Isn’t Common Core a liberal program shoved down our throats by the Obama administration? No – It grew out of a response to No Child Left Behind (Bush admin.) when it became clear that making each state meet their own standards meant some states had it much easier than others if their educational standards were already lower. A group of education leaders and business interests came up with a plan to even the playing field and study the best education systems and theories around the country and the world. It is totally voluntary for each state, but Race to the Top tied in with Common Core, and is supported by Obama and Education Secretary Duncan.
Why does Common Core cover only English and Math? Aren’t the other subjects important? It may look like it only covers those two, but in reality the English standards cover most other subjects, like history, science, and specialized subjects, since reading and interpreting text is the key to learning. In social studies, students are encouraged to think like historians – to focus more on discovery and critical thinking than on lectures. In science the students should learn to think like a scientist and problem-solve rather than memorize a textbook.
Why is the English standard so focused on non-fiction now instead of learning great literature? That relates to the previous issue – it covers expositional and technical writing to help with courses outside of English. But literature is still of primary importance in English, and of course literature courses.
Why do so many teachers and students hate Common Core? Many love it, but it is a shift in teaching and learning, and if you are already familiar with the old way, change can be a challenge, and uncomfortable. But the hope is that everyone will come around, and just like any change, become part of the process and make it better! When they discover that math can be creative, and that being good at math can mean you are a thinker, not a calculator, it may make sense. Parents who learned the traditional way, and have trouble helping with homework may see their kids are leaping past them in understanding mathematics, and all their subjects.
How can I learn more about this?