Common Core: Get Over It
The debate is raging over Common Core. Is it a good thing? I live in a local district that is spending several million dollars in order to realign textbooks because they are aligned with Common Core. I see Facebook messages from relatives across the country that are in opposition to Common Core because it is against there conservative values. Those individuals think this is the government telling us what to do, and that is inherently wrong. While I agree with this principal at times, I think the debate over Common Core is not a place to fight this fight, in the end Common Core won't matter that much, and this debate inherently shows the deeper issues with education in the United States.
Why are conservatives all the sudden up in arms over this? This is just aligning standards between states. Standards of Learning have been around in the United States for all 9 years of my career. Common Core just takes those and aligns them between states. Isn't this a good thing? Should students be able to move from state to state and get the same education? If states begin to align standards with each other, students who move will have the same opportunity for an education in every state. The other thing people forget is that this was an initiative from the governors. Yet this is an easy thing to blame on President Obama and the liberals in charge.
The other thing that people forget is that this will change with in the next 5 years. I have been in education for 9 years, and its a common principal that you see a new initiative every couple of years. Education is so politicized these days, that teachers are asked to change direction every time there is an election. In the end this means Common Core will go by the wayside probably at the end of the President Obama's term
This shows the main problem with education today. Its politicized. Every politician thinks they have the solution to solve education. Most have not seen a classroom in over 20 years, and their own children have been out of the classroom for over 10. Education needs to change, and the decision making process needs to be put in the hands of educators. Maybe that means a different nomination process for school boards, Maybe it means politicians putting educators in positions of power. There has to be a change. Until there is, education won't change.
We have to have a new solution. Districts are buying technology without consideration of the teachers who are using them. Many times, technology is purchased in districts as a district initiative. You know what happens to many of these devices? They end up in a closet. I have seen this firsthand with a local district that bought student response systems for every teacher. I just went back to give a presentation in that district, and as I mentioned this system, there was a good deal of laughter in the crowd. Its time for a change. We need to gear technology purchases towards the teachers who will actually use them.
I think its time we put the technology in the hands of the teachers who will actually use them. What if districts began programs that basically awarded education technology on a system similar to grants? Except this time the grants are teacher based, and they are not school based. If a teacher wanted an Ipad cart, they could apply to this program. If a math teacher wanted the best graphing calculators, they could apply. If a science teacher wanted a high powered microscope, they could apply. It basically takes the buying power out of the districts hands, and puts it in the hand of the teachers. There of course would be many levels to this application, and the district would be able to decide which projects it funds.
Now if you went to this type of funding, you would have to have a application process in place. I think you could structure this process where it is both beneficial to the teacher and the district. You could have teachers fill out an in depth application that details the reason they want the new technology and gives a detailed plan for implementation and use. You would then have to have a process in place where the district could keep track of the teachers progress with the technology. This could include site visits, observations, and paperwork such as lesson plans that are turned in. This process will give the district data, and it will consistently push the teacher to innovate. It also insures the technology will be used at the highest level. If the teacher does not continue with the process, then their technology purchase could be removed from their control
What extra benefits does the teacher get? Well for one, this gives creative innovative teachers a process to obtain the technology they need to be creative and innovative. With this technology being purchased for the teacher, the teacher would also be able to take this technology with them if they transferred with in the same district. You could even go as far as having a district exchange program with other local districts that allows the technology to follow them if they go to another district.
You would also have to be innovative with some of the rules of the program. You could structure the program where the teachers who successfully complete the rigorous requirements for 5 years get an opportunity to re-up with newer technology. You would also have to have an exchange program for technology that was purchased and then taken away from educators who did not complete the requirements of the program. You could structure these pieces to be loaned out to teachers who may want to try something but do not have a fully functional idea. You could also structure this where part of the program is learning the basic maintenance and servicing of whatever devices you decide to get. This would eliminate some need for IT, but you would sill have to have some IT professionals in order to do the major servicing.
School districts have to do things differently. Budgets are to tight today, and technology moves to fast. By putting the buying power in the hand of the teacher, you are eliminating the cost for devices that won’t be used, and you are allowing the teachers to power innvoation
This is my first year teaching advanced level juniors (IB History SL), and the one thing I have learned is that they are obsessed with getting into the right college. Many of them have aspirations of going to Ivy League or other highly competitive academic schools, and because of this getting the right grade has become their obsession. Many of them have so much anxiety, that I am worried they are close to mental and physical breakdowns. Much of this can be a attributed to the overall lack of sleep many of these students get from staying up till 3 in the morning studying and completing assignments. As I have seen this happen time and time again, I have begun to question whether these students were actually learning anything, is this good for the student, and in today's world does what college you attend really matter that much.
Are these students actually learning? I think the answer is yes and no. I think two factors come into play here. The first is the nature of the student. There are many students within these classes that are concerned with their grade and their grade alone. They will find the easiest way out to get the grade they want because all they are concerned with is the number that appears on their college transcript. If this is the case, they are not learning. With colleges doing much of their admission work based on grades, our school systems have become so grade centric that students don's concentrate on quality work. What if college's just gave an admissions exam? Get rid of all of the state tests juniors and seniors have to take, and tell them that these years should be focused on your college admissions tests. Yes, It makes these test high stakes, but think about the benefit. First, high school students would worry more about what they have actually learned then the grades they got. They would have to do high quality learning assignments so they could learn the material in order to be successful on the entrance exam. Second, it lets colleges test for what they think is important. If its an engineering school, they could concentrate more on science and math, while other schools could concentrate on things like history and the arts. Third, this would even the playing field. All high schools are not the same, and this would make students in lower performing schools who are the top of their class compete with students from the highest performing schools who are middle of the pack in their class
High School should be a time that is cherished. Many students are losing this because of the decision they have to make on college. I teach several students who are so obsessed with their GPA and grades that all they do is study and work till 3 in the morning. Many of them have given up things like sports and extracurricular activities because they are struggling to keep up. How is this good for the student? As I look back on my own high school days, what I remember most is the things outside the academic day. On top of that, many of the things taught in high school will have no bearing on a students future life or career. Really high school is a place for basic knowledge and an exploration of interest. Why are we making it a the be all end all for a person's career?
Does what college you choose really matter anymore anyway? I think the answer to that in most professions has to be no. Does an MBA from Harvard open some doors in the business world? Sure, but as the world moves more and more into the technology age, what you can do with that technology is what matters. Employers look for experience and skill first, then they look to where you went to school second. I know in my chosen profession of education, I have not had an employer ever ask me why they should hire someone who attended Morehead State. Many times jobs go to people with established relationships, which means we should focus more on interpersonal skills. The focus on what school you go to even begins to decrease exponentially after your initial job because the focus is on your experience not the brand name of the university.
In closing, we have to find a way to lessen the anxiety of students looking to make the college choice. It takes away from learning and their overall life experience. All this happens for something that may not even matter that much.