A Letter to Commissioner King and the New York State Education Department:
I have played your game for the past two years. As an educator, I have created my teaching portfolio with enough evidence so I can prove that I am doing my job over the course of the school year. I am testing my students on material that they haven’t yet learned in September, and then re-testing them midway through the year, and then again at the end of the year to track and show their growth. Between those tests, I am giving formative assessments. I am taking pictures of myself at community events within my district to prove that I support my school district and the community. I am teaching using the state-generated modules that you have created and assumed would work on all students, despite learning style, learning ability, or native language. I am effectively proving that I am worthy of keeping my job and that my bachelors and masters degrees weren’t for naught. I have adapted, just as all teachers across the state have, because that’s what we do. We might not agree, we might shake our head at the amount of time creative instruction has turned into testing instruction, but we play the game.
Today, things got really personal. Today I saw just how this Common Core business is affecting kids. Not my kids in my classroom; I know how it’s affecting them and I am doing the best that I can to make this as painless as possible on them. Today, my third grade son came home an angry, discouraged kid because of school. On the contrary, my oldest son is doing pretty well with the Common Core. He’s had some difficulties, but for the most part he’s just rolling with it and we’re doing OK. But my younger son is not my older son; which just proves that this one-size-fits-all curriculum that you are throwing at these elementary kids is bull.
That’s right, NYS, I call bull. When my eight year old boy, who loves to read to his little sister and is excited to go to back to school come July of every summer, calls himself dumb because he is bringing home failing test grades, then this has turned personal. My son isn’t dumb, Commissioner King. He works hard to learn, he writes stories and songs, builds entire football stadiums out of Legos in record time, and he can explain how to divide in his own words. He. Is. Not. Dumb. But when he gets consistently failing grades on the module assessments, what message do you think he’s getting? These module assessments, sir, that have words like ‘boughten’ on them and the children have to infer what ‘boughten’ means. Did you know that boughten is no longer used as a form of the verb to buy? According to the grammarist.com website, boughten is as foreign to modern language as the word thou.
“Boughten is an archaic participial inflection of the verb to buy. It was once a fairly common colloquial form—it was used to describe something bought instead of homemade—and it still appears occasionally, but it is widely seen as incorrect and might be considered out of place in formal writing”
So, when my son is faced with answering questions on outdated language, on topics such as a ‘sorrel mare’ and the reading passages take place in foreign war-torn lands, when these children haven’t even mastered the basics of their own country yet, what do expect him to feel like? Do you expect him to feel like he’s just on the road to become college and career ready, which is the basis of the common core, and these challenges will only make him stronger?
No, sir, I’ll tell you what it does. It beats him down. It discourages him. It exhausts him. It makes him dread going to school and then lash out in anger at the nightly homework that is associated with these common core modules. It is turning him off of school and if this trend continues, he will be far from college and career ready because he will want nothing to do with college.
I understand that we want to compete globally in the area of education. High school and college students should absolutely be challenged and learn to become a valuable, contributing member to their chosen career. Attributes such as creativeness, leadership, self-directedness, and being a team player are all skills that our next generation need to possess. But let’s work backwards: our high school teachers signed up for this. We can get our kids college and career ready; and if we don’t, shame on us. Our goal as high school teachers is send productive citizens into the world. Some years are better than others. Some kids have the advantage of supportive homes, while many do not. But we know where they need to be, and if our colleges and universities are unhappy with the product they are receiving then the communication between the the high schools and post-secondary schools needs to improve. We don’t need to throw it on the elementary teachers and students. No, those teachers need to instill a love of school so when children get to our middle and high schools they are not burnt out. They are encouraged, excited, confident, and motivated.
Creating modules that are a scripted nightmare for both the teacher and student is not the answer. You are ruining children. You are killing their spirit. You are making them believe they are dumb because they can’t multiply and divide on the exact day that the module says they should be multiplying and dividing. You are creating a generation of disengaged children who now feel insufficient.
This mom is angry. This educator is pessimistic. This state is in trouble.
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