Common Core may not be the answer to education reform

By Alyssa Franklin

Common Core. Anyone, anywhere near a school building is familiar with the term, which refers to rigorous new standards endorsed by New York State.

Educators say they fear the new curriculum overlooks students’ differences and the basic skills required for life in the real world. They add, even worse, it neglects students’ true interests and passions.

Ms. Sonja VanSlambrouck is a fifth-grade teacher in the Pine Valley School District.

The Common Core has been in place throughout several states and she said she thinks it sets students up to fail. Ms. VanSlambrouck states that this education system negatively affects students, teachers and parents.

According to Ms. VanSlambrouck, students have cried, because it is too advanced for their age and parents get frustrated, because they don’t understand the material their children are learning. Ms. VanSlambrouck even said that it has been medically proven that children’s brains just aren’t developed enough yet to do the work that has been required by the Common Core. She said she wonders if more and more cases of ADHD, ODD, and processing disorders have been diagnosed due to the fact that the Common Core’s standards are too high.

Ms. VanSlambrouck, who also has a degree in psychology, explained that children, biologically, cannot sit still for too long. While children are growing, their muscles and bones will ache and hurt. The only way to relieve the pain is to move around, but children are not able to do this when they are told to sit in school for six hours.
With the Common Core in place, there is no time for students to be kids, said Ms. VanSlambrouck. Parents wonder why all their children do is watch television or sit at the computer. There is no time in school to have recess, do crafts, or even read what they want to read. Children don’t know how to entertain themselves or use their imaginations.

From the age of five (and the government is trying to make it earlier) kids are told, “Sit still. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Don’t talk. Color inside the lines.” The Common Core is only pushing that type of mentality and pushing everyone to be the same, according to Ms. VanSlambrouck.

There is a certain pressure placed on the teachers, as well. The teachers are given a hardcopy of a script to follow when teaching, so they don’t really get to share their teaching skills. Teachers don’t get to teach in different ways for students who don’t all learn the same way. And as for the thousands of dollars on a college education, it doesn’t matter, anyone can read a script.

The Common Core and the emphasis on science, math, and advanced technology limits the amount of time students have to acquire real world skills.

Technology teacher, Mr. Partridge, explained how the technology department has changed with the new standards.

The enrollment in his classes has decreased for several reasons. He said there is no time in students’ schedules, because all of the required courses take up more than 75% of their day and by the time they have gone to all those classes, there is so much homework that nobody wants to take another course, they just want time to get their work done.

According to Mr. Partridge, students also take classes, such as study hall, instead of an elective course, because they need extra help with the material given.

Mr. Partridge and many others say they feel that there should be a technology course required. “Everyone is being taught how to do rocket science, but society is losing simple every day skills. Not many people can fix a hole in the wall, but don’t worry, anyone will be able to find the magnitude of an earthquake half way around the world, so it’ll be fine. There are skills, like changing a door knob, replacing lights, or fixing a door hinge that people lack today. These are simple skills that people pay someone else to do, because they don’t know how,” said Mr. Partridge.

There should be a blend of skills taught with advanced technology and with “old school” technology so society doesn’t become, as Mr. Partridge said, “highly technological, but functionally inept.”

The Common Core teaching modules forget that everyone is different, everyone learns in different ways, and everyone’s creativity levels are different.

Mrs. Rydzik, art teacher, explains how art is important to the development of communication.

Art is supposed to be a way to communicate. The art department is given a structure to follow, but the teachers are still able to teach how they want, unlike other courses.

Many jobs are becoming available in the art field, such as graphic design, set design, etc.

Mrs. Rydzik said she is concerned that many students decide not to take art, because there is not enough room or time in their schedules for it. However, art is vital in learning to express oneself, she asserts.

Although the push of science and math on students can be negative, Mrs. Mattimore, high school guidance counselor, gives the reasoning behind it.

She said, often, students don’t find certain classes intriguing, so they don’t put effort into them. Then, their grades start slipping and they think it is just because the class is too hard or they are too stupid.

Mrs. Mattimore added that students just don’t realize their potential. If the students tried a little harder, the classes wouldn’t seem so difficult.

Our school has been fortunate enough to add Virtual Advanced Placement, distance learning, and BOCES classes to the course selection for students with different interests. If a student is passionate about a trade class at BOCES, the student has the option to take it and the guidance counselors will respect their decision.

Educators point out that the Common Core and other new education standards may promote academic rigor, but at the expense of organic classroom instruction and elective classes that provide real-world job skills.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s