trying to understand the Common Core (the email that started it all)

As you know me, you know I read a lot about education.  I love it.  It’s what I often do instead of lesson planning and grading late at night.  Sometimes I forward articles to my friends and colleagues.  Lately, I’ve been reading lots and lots of articles both for and against the Common Core State Standards, now adopted by almost all the states.

I thought I would include you in on this email, and ask your permission to let me send you more articles in the future.  I don’t do Facebook much, and I don’t have an actual blog, but I do like the email venue.  Please let me know if you want off of my own personal email list – in which I may vent on matters of education in the larger scheme of “what is wrong with this world and what can I do about it?”  I won’t be offended if you need off of this list – I get it – there is too much to read these days.  However, if your name is Hernán, and you happen to live with me, you are in for the ride – sorry.  I don’t intend to send more than one or two articles a week.  I think I can live with that.  And maybe I will just stop one day, when I get bored, or I get involved with saving bonobos instead.
If you want to share my emails with others, that is fine – I will try to maintain some professional demeanor for the public gaze.
So here goes (with some links attached).
The brand new Common Core State Standards – what to think? are they good? or are they bad? do they help teachers, students, schools? or not?
So I’ve been to a few professional development trainings on the Common Core and how they pertain to my subject area – Spanish.  In this, so far, I have gleaned that my subject area needs to underscore literacy skills and critical thinking skills, skills that World Language teachers have been improving upon each year since the AP test was updated to be a more rigorous and academic test.  Yay!  And, they seem to correspond well with the lovely 5 C’s of the National Foreign Language Standards (Cultures, Communities, Communication, Connections and Comparisons). The Common Core is not too frightening or threatening to my little world.
However, for many other teaching areas, the new standards are overwhelming, confusing and controversial. I want to know whether I should support them or not, or how I can support them or get rid of them.

And, as a mama, I am also interested in what is happening at the elementary school level.  I read sometimes that the new Common Core standards are too weighty for young minds, and that the teachers scoff at what is being asked of their little charges.  And sometimes I read about the excitement and joy of teachers who are embracing the new standards.  At times the Common Core standards seem to allow for more creativity and depth of knowledge – all that stuff that had been squashed by the old California content standards.  I hear that some teachers who have been around the block are pleased to go back to standards that allow for more teacher choice in curricular materials and require more engaging real life experiences that used to be part and parcel of elementary school education.
I generally try to stay positive on the matter of the new standards, although many smart educators say that the Common Core is the latest plot to ruin public education by creating benchmarks that most of our students will fail, causing parents and politicians to send our public school dollars to corrupt private entities that run sham charter schools.  Many respected educators and researchers say that the Common Core has the same fundamental problem as every other educational reform – that the real problem in education is poverty – and that raising the bar on young children will not change the contexts of their lives that impede their learning and self-empowerment.  In this, I generally agree that we will find no solutions without investing a great deal more in public education – creating schools where teachers make a high wage and have time to develop and plan with colleagues, along with creating a society in which companies can’t opt out of investing in the countries in which they operate and pay their own employees a living wage, and a solid health care system that is available to everyone, no matter how poor their salary.
So, I leave you with a couple of interesting links – one is an article by Diane Ravitch on why she cannot support the new Common Core State Standards; and one is an article by E.D. Hirsch explaining his Common Core knowledge curricular materials that support the Common Core with specific grade by grade content knowledge.  He uses a 4th grade curriculum example for social studies – perfect for me since my kid is currently in 4th grade!
Maestra Malinche
And here is my education quote for the day:  “The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”   Herbert Spencer   English philosopher (1820 – 1903)

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