3.31.2011

Spring break thinking - common core standards

I had high hopes of posting every day of spring break, but then yesterday came and went and I didn't have anything to share! Plus, I spent over 2 hours sitting in front of the computer doing homework for my art class. I should be doing it now, but it can wait a bit longer. Almost done with the journaling part, then it's on to the art part, which I need time and quiet to do! As I sat pulling weeds today for what felt like an eternity in the wonderful 93 degree sun, I was thinking about the end of this year and then beginning of next year. I did a lot of thinking...and got a lot of weeds pulled!

Anyway, I got an e-mail on my school account from our math program saying that they go along with the Common Core Standards. I didn't know that was a concern for us, as I have heard nothing about the CCS as they are referred to. So, I decided to look a bit deeper into it. I went to the website for the CCS and saw that California has in fact "adopted" them, but that's about as far as the state has made it. I went to the state website and they said they are working on them and figuring out how to incorporate them with the standards we already have. I bet they will sprung on us one day next year with little warning. Or they will wait til we are out of the budget craphole when they can buy new curriculum and throw it all at us then. WHo knows!

I looked at the standards. I had a little panic attack. Then I thought that it was crap. Pure and utter crap. And here's my little opinion on why. Right now in CA, we have our state standards. Some aren't the greatest and most complex standards, but they work. We have many standards that are the same through the year to make sure that mastery is achieved rather than just glossed over. But in looking at these new standards, I feel we will be shoving information down their children's throats rather than teaching them something substantial. I was looking at the writing standard and that it was really gave me a panicky moment. The CCS want the students to cover all types of writing in first grade. It's hard enough to get some of them to write one type of writing and do it OK, rather than 6 types.

Before I freak out and move to Canada, I will wait and see what happens here. I was remembering my comparative ed class from my master's a few years ago. We looked at the educational systems of other countries. What a shock! America thinks that they are they greatest thing, but when it comes to education, we kinda suck at it. I think as teachers we do the best we can with what we got, but it could be so much better if we were better supported and the children had a good, solid chance at learning the standards, rather than jumping from thing to thing to make sure everything is covered before testing happens. And I think that is sad. The one phrase I remember the instructor using about other countries (I can distinctly remember Japan being mentioned) was "depth, not breadth". In other countries, the students will learn one thing and will learn it forwards and backwards, inside out and upside down. They will know it in their sleep. When they have mastered everything there is to know on the topic, they move on. Why can't we do that? I guess as teachers we do that, but we do it on our own using our own materials and sometime's without following the pacing guide and doing it when we are supposed to be doing it. As an example, our math program (which is CCS approved) has 8 lessons on teaching money. But they assume the kids come into 1st grade knowing the names of the coins and the values of coins. Some of these kids don't have any money to know what it is!!!!! With our program, children are supposed to know how to count coins (pennies through half dollars and combinations of those coins) after 2 weeks. Um, we spent 2 days on pennies alone. I think we spent 4 weeks on money - identifying coins, sorting coins, writing about coins, doing problem solving, counting coins, etc. And we are still going to review EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. til the end of the year.

As it is now, there are things that take some students forever to learn. And that's taking our time on things, making sure it's what they need at their pace and at their level. With the new CCS, I don't know how we are going to be able to do that without throwing information at the kids when they aren't ready. I understand the reasoning behind the standards - everyone doing the same thing across the board - but I just wonder if they will really "work". We can't even have all the teachers in my grade level follow the pacing guides for math; how is it going to work throughout the country? I guess I won't lose too much sleep over the standards until they are in place in my state and are being put to use! Until then, I will follow the CA standards and do what I do!

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