Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More Common Core

Anymore, I live, eat, breathe, and sleep Common Core. It pervades every moment of my life -- even when I am not at work. I know it's impacting me when I am not at work because I feel the residual stress in the form of headaches and upset stomachs. Why does something like this cause me so much angst? I have no clue. I'd like to think it's because I take my job that seriously, but maybe it's not me, it's them (meaning: the standards).

In theory, I love what the CCSS say and what they aim to do (for the record: I am speaking of the ELA standards because that is my subject area; I cannot speak knowledgeably about any other subject area standards). In practice, the CCSS seem impossible to implement with the integrity they need to be implemented with. They are so ambitious that I am not sure how I can thoroughly cover them to the extent that the learners in my classroom will meet them solidly. What's more scary and frustrating is knowing that there will be a "lag" in seeing true results from implementing the CCSS. That is because we only will have our curriculum fully aligned at the end of this year and start teaching in earnest to those standards next school year (fall 2013). That means that the expectations and requirements for all students will be "stepped up" next year but the only students who will get the full impact of the CCSS will be next year's kindergarteners because they start at the ground floor. That means for me, as a 7th grade ELA teacher, I will be plugging "holes" in learning until those kindergarteners get to me in 8 years. If that isn't daunting, I don't know what is! (As a side note, I believe this could be even more problematic for math teachers, based on what little I understand about the math standards.) To make matters worse, it will be just a couple short years until students are assessed on these standards and my evaluation of effectiveness will be impacted by the scores of those tests. Kids will be expected to score well on a test that they haven't been fully prepared for over the course of their education, and I will be judged based on those scores. It smacks of stress and unfairness. And it's demoralizing.

I believe in providing a challenging curriculum for my learners. I believe in holding students to higher standards and expectations. I believe in pushing myself professionally. But I am not convinced that the CCSS are going to challenge my students or hold them to higher standards and expectations. And it would probably be my fault if that happens because I feel like my ability as a teacher is pushed beyond what I can reasonably do to effectively put those standards into practice. And when I fail to do that, I fail so much more than myself; I fail those kids who come into my classroom every day and look to me to guide them on their educational journey.

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