Common Core @ Home: ELA - Does the Common Core benefit my children at all?



Part Six of a continuing series

Kiersten Greene, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy education at SUNY New Paltz. She was born in the Hudson Valley, and recently returned to the region after living in New York City for 15 years, where she taught 5th grade. When she’s not reading, writing, or teaching, you can find her knitting.



Dear Kiersten,  Does the Common Core benefit my children at all?

The benefits of the Common Core are still up in the air, as I suspect they will be for quite a while. As with any large-scale education reform, we won’t know the actual impact of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) until years from now. In the meantime, your question is an important one to ask!

There has been a lot of talk about the CCSS this past school year, but there’s still a lack of clarity about what they are, exactly how they affect classroom instruction, and how they’ll benefit our kids (if at all).

As I see it, the main problem with the CCSS is not that they exist, but how they’re being implemented and used.

Implementation

As a former 5th-grade teacher and current teacher educator, I don’t have a problem with having some sort of standards to guide instruction. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any educator out there who doesn’t welcome having a set of guidelines to refer to for planning and teaching.

However, when those guidelines are developmentally inappropriate; provide a gateway for mandated, scripted curricula; and become the driving force behind high-stakes testing, we have to take a step back and wonder: What, exactly, are the standards really about?

VIP pass, hudson valley parent

School reforms

My mentor, the late Dr. Jean Anyon, once wrote that changing school reforms without addressing the economic needs of the schools and communities in which those reforms are being enacted “is like trying to clean the air on one side of a screen door.”

While much of her work was in the context of urban school reform, Dr. Anyon’s ideas can teach us about reforms in just about any setting from urban to rural: we can’t expect higher achievement — in school or in life — if all we do is raise the bar.

Long-term benefits?

It seems to me that in a society where the economy is still recovering from a prolonged downturn and the majority of people are struggling to make ends meet, education alone can’t (and won’t) magically prepare anyone to be college- and career-ready.

As long as the cost of college continues to grow unchecked and the number of available, decent-paying jobs lags behind the number of people who need them, it would take a miracle for the CCSS to have long-term benefits on our society as a whole — or on our kids as individuals.

College years

The average student graduating from college this year will face tens of thousands of dollars in student debt — and won’t be able to pay it off anytime soon. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s hard to imagine that the CCSS will do much for our kids unless policymakers seriously (and perhaps, more thoughtfully) consider the context(s) in which they are being implemented.

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