Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why I Support the Common Core

This one is long overdue. 

I'm proud to rub shoulders with some of the most intelligent and influential bloggers and activists in NYC and beyond. As I lay claim to neither their influence or their intelligence, I find myself in the unique position of being able to carefully listen to their tutelage, while not having to accept their positions as some type of dogma. 

Many of them do not support the Common Core. They believe the standards to be a divisive tool of corporate education reformers who are hellbent on privatizing out public school system. For many of their writings, the matter is as simple as that. This is an oversimplification of course and the matter is, obviously, far more complex but at the end of the day, they don't support the core.

As a parent, I have to say that the Common Core, along with the high stakes tests that everyone is making a big deal about really does suck big rotten eggs. I am opposed to those tests and will be opting my seven year old out, in one way or another, from the imposition of them. But I am a well-informed enough parent to see that the Common Core is not, by itself, the problem.  In fact, those tests were harming children long before the CCSS were drafted and will be around after the CC are gone. The problem is these tests and that problem is made all the more worse when they are linked to a terrible curriculum matching the standards. A curriculum and tests, however, is not the Common Core. When my daughter's school dumped the corporate curriculum for Math and Language Arts last year, and opted for another approach, she started to enjoy learning again; but she was still learning along the Common Core.

As a teacher deciding whether or not the Common Core is good, I have to think about what's best for my students. A few factors go into that consideration. My own knowledge about pedagogy and getting ready the real world is only one of those factors (whether my students are enjoying learning is another, but not all learning should be fun. High School is also hard work, so that factor isn't the only consideration that should be made).  Another, really important, factor is how the parents of my students feel about the standards. Parents of my students want their children to experience a good education more than I. They also want them to be ready for that real world. I am proud to have chosen a career where I teach primarily students who are Black and Latin. So as I read the polls about the popularity of the CCSS (or lack thereof) my eyes immediately turn to how people of color feel about these standards. That consideration is as close as I can get to figuring out whether or not the parents of my students support the core.

No one makes a big deal about this, but it is a very big deal.

Two polls about the core were released just this week (here and here). Another was released last month. Some of the postings I've read about this week's polls are here (and here and here and here). They all address a CCSS that are unpopular and nearing their death in many states. The unpopularity of the CC is a particular point that is being made in much of what I've been reading about those polls.

But no one is making a particularly big deal about exactly how popular the CC is among members of the Black and Latin communities. Of the two polls released this week, just one -the Education Next Poll even bothered asking respondents to identify themselves by race or ethnicity. And that poll had some results that surprised me. For instance, 69% of Black Americans polled and 62% of folks who described themselves as 'Hispanic' actually support the Common Core.

Yes they do!!!

This matches a Sienna College Poll last July Showing that 60% of 'African-American/Blacks' and 49% of 'Latinos' felt the CC should "continue to be implemented". This, to me represents a fairly strong popularity for the core among the parents of the students I teach.

I don't know how you see yourself, but I don't see myself as any type of wise man. I don't see myself as some sort of 21st Century philosophe. I'm not going to spend my time weeding through the complexities of academic standards pretending that that's what I'd rather be doing for a living.  It is not.  I am, happily, just a classroom teacher. I'm proud to be just a lowly paid public servant (who's colleagues get kicked in the teeth in the press virtually every day).  And while I feel that the core will ultimately create less winners in America and more losers thus dividing the races along economic parameters even more than they are today (if you could imagine there being such a thing), I have to go with what I think the parents of my students want -not what I wish they'd want; what they do, in fact, want.

It seems clear to me that the parents of my students want the core, so I'm behind them. But I'm not writing just to say that. I'm also writing to say that if you teach student of the same background as I, that you should be aware of who does, as well as who doesn't support the core.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a three page reading rubric to write ;)

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