To be honest with you, I hadn't really given common core that much thought. My children are home-schooled and I thought that the standards, dreamed up on the whim of a politician, wouldn't affect us.
We use an online, state school. I like it because it is a rigorous curriculum and the children are tested, so that I know I am not messing up too much.
I also thought, "How bad can it really be? It is just a set of standards, right?"
I had even heard all of the horror stories, about crazy math problems, about children being so stressed out that they get sick and don't want to go to school.
Just like the horror stories, our first day of school started out with tears:
Since textbook companies can't afford to print textbooks according to the previously mentioned whims, there are NO TEXTBOOKS for some subjects.
Yes, you heard that right, no textbooks. But, our school is online. So, we get the lessons and "teacher guides" all online. No problem, right?
Well, imagine that you have pulled your child's lesson up online and you also have to pull up the teacher guide on that same computer. Then, you have to toggle back and forth between the lesson and teacher guide. As you have probably guessed by now, this gives an uncomfortable amount of access to the teacher guide for the child.
Today my 5th grader had a vocabulary test. She is very good at vocabulary. She knows all of the definitions of the words and gets just about every vocabulary test question correct.
On today's test, in addition to being able to identify the words, she had some arbitrary questions that she got wrong. For example, she was given a word that was used in a sentence and 4 synonyms from a thesaurus. She had to choose the best two synonyms for the word.
Isn't that kinda arbitrary?
She also had to identify in a paragraph the 2 words (out of 4) that clued her in to the meaning of the vocabulary word.
She got a failing grade on the test, twice. She was in tears, my stomach was in knots and I called the "teacher" from our online school.
She very kindly explained that she understood my concerns. I did appreciate that. She used very carefully chosen, common core-approved words to say that the standards are more rigorous.
I used not carefully chosen, mom-approved words to explain that the standards being tested weren't really more rigorous, they were more arbitrary.
So, we decided that I would take the test to get a passing grade for my child.
Is this really helping the child learn? We both agreed that it wasn't. But, what could we do?
So, while my 5th grader colored a picture of My Little Pony, I, with sweaty palms and palpitating heart, took the vocabulary test.
I didn't know the answer to number 1. Dissenters aside, I do have a master's in journalism. And, I really couldn't decide among three of the words to answer number 1.
But, I soldiered on and I am proud to report that I got an 80! A passing grade!
Does common core, an arbitrary set of standards dreamed up by a politician, really help children? From the front lines, I can honestly say, "no."
Coming up tomorrow, common core math...