Perhaps nothing has become more politicized, polarizing, and dividing in education currently than the repealing and undoing of all the work the was done on the Common Core Math Standards (ok maybe charter schools but that’s a topic for another time). From heated discussions about states right to chose curriculum to bad worksheets from worse books and websites my social media website is abuzz with pictures, stories, and articles all building a case against the Core. I’d like to propose we look at it less of a political hot button issue and more about helping the 120 kids I am currently teaching.
In December I welcomed a new student into my classroom, we will call him “G”. G came to my classroom labeled as homeless because although his parents had a place to stay he did not have a permanent residence. Upon further investigation G had been enrolled in 5 schools in two years. One of those was another middle school in my own district and the others were from another state. Let that sink in for you a minute…five schools, two years. G is extremely bright, able to reason about math and is a joy to teach but came to me with D from his last school and a failing record from the out of state schools. I have to believe these grades are a result of a lack of consistency in education and home life rather than as a result of ability as after my first meeting with G it was evident that he is more than capable of high quality work.
Where G struggles is in the content he missed while moving from state to state and school to school. In the transfer from district to district and curriculum map to curriculum map he missed not just lessons but entire units of instruction. If the state he came from was teaching geometry when I was teaching integers and he shows up to my classroom during the geometry unit he ends up with geometry twice and integers not at all. Although I work tirelessly to address gaps for all students you can imagine that it is very difficult to replace entire units of instruction for a student while teaching 30 others in the classroom that have their own learning gaps and needs.
Unfortunately it isn’t just a math issue. I know students who moved from state to state between 6th grade and 7th grade. If our state teaches geography in 6th grade and his new state teaches it in 7th grade that student is now set up to take geography twice and miss another course such as U.S. or World History.
Trust me I get more than anyone the need to autonomy in teaching. I thrive off the opportunity to select my own activities and lessons in order to provide my students with what they need in order to help each of them reach their full potential. The last thing I am looking for is a prescribed curriculum where teacher’s hands are tied to daily lessons and activities that don’t let them use their professional judgement and abilities to their full extent. However, I will always make a case for National Standards that assure that no matter where G enrolls next that he will be able to pick up where we left off with no gaps in instruction. As we continue to live in a more and more global society our population becomes more transient and able to relocate more easily than in generations past. Shouldn’t our education system find ways to support students regardless of location rather than hoping they all get all the content at some point? Let’s make the Common Core argument more about kids and less about politics.