My daughter has four tests this week. Week after week she has at least four tests, one of them a high-pressure timed math factor test. If she gets more than one answer wrong, she repeats the same test the following week (which, by the way, is a great way to start an unhealthy competition among classmates). Some weeks, if they happen to finish a unit in social studies, science, or math, they also have a unit test. So now we're up to five.
What's the big deal? She's 6-years-old. This is first grade we're talking about. For the first couple of weeks of school, it actually wasn't a big deal. She's never taken a test before, so there was no fear of incorrect answers or failure. As the daughter of a musician and a psychotherapist, she's actually one of the lucky ones. There is no pressure to perform, academically or otherwise, in this house. We believe in creativity, low stress, and happiness.
Sadly, a few weeks into school she somehow learned that tests and grades hold some kind of larger meaning. Since she didn't get it here, she definitely got it there.
Education in the public schools has changed. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes change means keeping up with things like technology, teaching kids to think, and updating the textbooks.
But the change brought upon public education by the Common Core Standards? That's a whole different story. The people who made these decisions claim that the goal of the Common Core is to ensure that all children are college/career ready. It's a nice sentiment. On some level, I get it. Even the playing field and teach the same core standards to kids across the board to narrow the gap. It makes sense on paper. But in practice? Not so much.
So far the Common Core appears to be putting fear into teachers -- they very people who care about, teach, and protect our children. I happen to know a lot of teachers. These are people who stay up entirely too late each night planning fun and engaging lessons for the following day. These are people who call me to seek help for those hard-to-reach students. These are people who hide first grade students in cabinets and sing them songs to keep them calm while a shooter wreaks havoc on their campus.
Forget about all of that. Today teachers are being forced to follow a script. They teach to tests and fear job loss if they don't see the expected results.
The result of this test giving, job loss fearing style of teaching is written all over the faces of the little kids caught in the transition. The people behind the Common Core might think that they are ensuring college/career readiness, but what they are really ensuring is a generation of anxious robotic children who can memorize answers but don't know how to think.
Check out these five reasons why the Common Core is ruining childhood:
Yes, tests and quizzes are part of school, but the pressure to perform is very high right now. Stress trickles down. When teachers are under stress, kids internalize it.
With this hyper-focus on the core areas of learning and the constant testing to ensure that the material is being memorized (I mean understood, of course), kids are constantly under pressure to perform. Add a trickle down stress factor to that and kids begin to fall apart. Anxiety disorders among children are already on the rise. Do we really want to see those statistics skyrocket?
Creativity is dead:
Learning has always included textbooks and spelling tests at the elementary school level. That's part of the deal. But it used to be that kids were given the opportunity to tap into their creative brains. I wrote my first "hardcover" book in second grade. I still remember how confident I felt when my little story about a witch evolved into an actual book. Those were the days.
Busywork is the name of the game with the Common Core. Kids need to write and rewrite spelling words and sentences until their hands practically fall off. They need to correct sentences that they didn't write because they don't really have the time to come up with their own sentences. Homework includes work packets with more of the same. And don't forget to study for those tests!
Forget about problem solving, group work, and thinking outside the box, these kids need to memorize the core curriculum first. It's as if creativity holds no merit. Are you familiar with Steve Jobs? There are people who do exactly what they have to do to get by, and there are people who work harder and end up changing the world. Don't we want to inspire kids to be thought leaders and world changers?
Inadequate time to socialize:
You know what's really taken a hit in recent years? Recess. Some schools don't have it at all. Recess is when kids truly practice social skills. They take turns. They negotiate. They initiate friendships. They learn to cope with disappointment. Sometimes they work together. Sometimes they don't. But either way, they learn to work it out. But not if they don't have recess.
Poor eating habits and insufficient exercise:
You can't turn on the TV or open a magazine without hearing about obesity in America these days. It's a problem. And yet, a school lunch is often 15-20 minutes long, forcing kids to wolf down food before the bell rings. So much for listening to hunger cues and chatting with friends -- there is no time for that.
And then there's PE. Some school districts have completely cut physical education due to budget issues. With little recess and no PE, kids are not getting enough exercise.
No time to decompress:
Kids need downtime. There is a lot of talk about over-scheduling and the stress that results from too much going and not enough resting. But kids today are faced with a lot of homework. There are third graders with three hours of homework each night. And that doesn't account for long-term projects.
Even if you do manage to under-schedule your kids, many of them have to come right home and do their homework right up to that soccer practice or risk missing recess the next day (if they even have recess). Where is the downtime in that scenario?
It's time to rethink the Common Core. Stress is dangerous and impacts physical and emotional health. It's no way to live, and it's no way to raise our children.
Incidentally, can anyone tell me what kind of career requires people to spit out the answers to 20 math problems in two minutes or less?