Thursday, November 8, 2012

Difficulties with the Common Core

The Common Core has once again come to my attention, giving me an opportunity to do clarify my thoughts by writing them out. I'm not sure that this is drastically different than what I have written previously, but here goes.

One difficulty with the common core is that it sets a ceiling - this is what you have to know and no more. Many students will struggle to reach that ceiling, while many others are already operating well above the ceiling. Like it or not, the test is on the ceiling, not on anything above it. This ceiling is supposed to be what demonstrates that all high school students will be ready for college when they graduate. Given the wide array of abilities that are present in any population, it is logical (at least to me) that the ceiling won't be very high, otherwise there would be those who couldn't possibly reach it. This is where the "dumbing down" phraseology comes into play. If the ceiling of such a standard is low and the "gold standard" of the SAT is adjusted so that all who pass high school will do well on the SAT, then it stands to reason that the SAT would have to be less difficult than it is presently. At the same time, the opportunities for those who operate above the ceiling are expected to dry up as funding is re-directed towards those who need help reaching a ceiling that is perhaps too high for them.

Another difficulty with the common core is that it's goal is to homogenize the education of Americans. To have everyone know the same facts and think in the same way is not education to me. Professional educators often say that the goal of education is to teach students to think, yet they persist on testing a defined set of information in a limited manner. Most of us who homeschool are very individualistic thinkers - we chose to homeschool because the status quo wasn't acceptable to us, whatever our individual reason were. It is due to that sense of individuality, the ability to tailor a students education to their needs & interests, that many of us are not at all interested in the Common Core.

As one who has read a few common core plans, I have some serious concerns because the focus is on the standard, not the content. The plans go into great detail about which standard/goal/objective is being met, yet, for example, discourages teachers from giving background information on the Gettysburg Address and encourages them to tell the student that they may not understand it because it is hard?

I also expect all of the remaining underfunded technical education and fine arts departments to all but disappear, and that would be a tragedy. I, for one, would love to know that a future mechanical engineer has a grasp on how a variety of machines actually work before he/she decides to dedicate the remainder of education to the study of their design and functions. The arts are invaluable - they help you see things in a different light than you may have otherwise. They are vital to developing a sense of community as well as one's place in history. If arts education disappears, in 15 years we will see even more decreased funding for dance troupes, art museums and symphonies because no one will have been taught to appreciate it. What you don't appreciate, you don't financially support.

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