Common Core Standards – What Were They Thinking?

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As a parent of a child with dyslexia, the Common Core Standards have brought on many challenges. I have withheld my child from taking standardized tests, as I did not want him compared to other children, as they cannot have any testing accommodations and are required to take the same test. This is a strong area in which I believe they are failing for the reading impaired child. Not only does it affect my child with reading, math also requires many steps for a simple addition fact. The struggles have been immense and the evenings very sad, as we do homework that takes most of the evening to get through. I know that I am not the only parent that is unhappy with the changes, as many teachers are also. The developers of CCS said that it will be a difficult adjustment but the end results will outweigh those costs. I will be listing a few of the wrinkles that are making this so difficult.

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  • The CCS will allow students to not have to carry around the infamous textbooks anymore! The district will however need to spend a great deal of money to adopt the new material that is CCS ready. This will also lead to upgrading the technology in the school and also making sure they have enough to tailor to each student for CCS assessments. As most assessments will be done online and many learning modules are online as well. This will prove to be a big challenge for all the low income schools across the united states. I believe if the government wants the schools to adapt to these guidelines then they also need to provide the students, and teachers, with the necessary equipment to equally be able to learn the same and test the same.
  • As mentioned at the beginning of this article children that have a disadvantage are not able to test equally. I do not believe a child that has a reading disability should be required to sit and take the same test as a student with no disability and be scored the same way. This will do nothing but lower their self-esteem because of the frustration of not being able to answer anything correctly and seeing their friends do it with ease. This also leads to a huge disadvantage for the teachers. If they have a class of 20 students and 9 have a reading disability, her test results will be compared the same as a teacher who has 20 students with no disabilities. The government is then trying to adjust salaries to overall scores of the teacher’s test results from the students!

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  • What about social studies or science class? Does the government think they are no longer relevant to society today? The Common Core Standards has left those subjects out and are leaving those to each state as before to develop their own standards. I believe if they want it done as a whole then develop the program with all subjects. Many children excel more in science than any other subject. Then they say we need to grow on a global scale, and understanding the history of each area is extremely important in order to so that!

The Good Things About Standardized Testing

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In the last few years there has been much controversy about Common Core Standards. Many States have elected to incorporate this into the classrooms leaving many comments to be had. At first many parents, and teachers, were very displeased and gave many threats to school administrators and state officials. Then after some time passed by, parents and teachers were able to acknowledge that a lot of it made sense and would be beneficial in the long run. I will explain some benefits below.

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  • For the many families that move from state to state on a frequent basis, it will help prevent them from falling behind. Every state had very different standards and moving was a heavy adjustment for children. Now with the Common Core Standards material learned will be the same across the country for each grade level. With that being said, CCS does realize that each state is very diverse and they have left some room to tailor to their specific needs. Each state is required to adapt to 85% of the standards leaving 15% to tweak.
  • Money is always a big issue at every school. Generally, each school and state had to develop their own unique tests. Now the states that have adapted to using CCS can use the same tests and split the cost.
  • Students will be more easily monitored throughout the year. Instead of giving a test and comparing the children as a group, each child will be monitored on their own individual progress throughout the year. Making sure children are not falling behind.
  • Common Core Standards changed the way information is taught to the children. This was done with hopes that they would develop a higher level of thinking skills. Instead of a test covering one skill it will encompass many skills leading to better problem solving and better thinking skills.
  • Not only are the Common Core Standards being set standard across the country, it is internationally bench marked. In previous years the standards in the United States began to decline compared to other countries. Now our rankings should begin to improve and our students will be ready for a competitive global economy! Globalization is a big part of our economy and children will leave high school educated to be students of the world, not merely form the area of which they currently live.

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The list could continue to grow with the benefits of using Common Core Standards but I believe these are the most important. I believe that most parents who are against the CCS really need to sit down and think of the actual picture as whole. Yes, there are many quirks that need to be ironed out and it will take much time to get things perfect. Actually I am sure it will never be 100%, but what is! I believe this will allow our children to really develop, as a whole, in many ways. Whereas before, every child was taught at the same level and memorized the same things. Then required to take a test together and be compared to one another.

Amazing Things Are Happening in The 21st Century at School

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Every day something is changing, whether it’s the way we brush our teeth or the way we make our coffee! It’s crazy when your mother doesn’t know how to dial a phone anymore and she is only 53. My niece, who is in her first year of college, didn’t know how to do my son’s addition problems from his homework last week! My son is in second grade and he taught her the correct way to finish the problem. When they say that teaching in the 21st century has changed considerably they are not joking.

The technology has allowed for some very different approaches to the way teachers and students interact and do school work throughout the day. At the beginning of the day when smaller students go over the weather and what the projected forecast is, they are able to talk about our hometown and then look at any other part of the world and see what the weather is like in Australia. When my daughter goes to violin lessons, instead of having to wait her turn with the teacher to see if she has played a song correctly, she places a small device on the bridge of the violin that connects to the computer and the computer grades her. My daughter can then use the same program at home and monitor her mastery with the songs she plays. This type of learning creates a strong desire with immediate gratification. Here are a few other things my daughter finds amazing that she can do with technology that impacts her daily life:

  • When Jocelyn walks through the door in the afternoon her book bag appears empty. I ask why do you never have any books to study with or homework to do. Her response to me is this: Mom I do all my homework on-line and my teacher gets on the computer and she checks it! OK but what about studying? My books are on my iPad and I read them from that! How awesome is it that my daughter does not have to carry around a 300lb book bag and have a sore back!
  • Another huge advantage that may seem minuscule is that my daughter always has what she needs for her homework because it is all online. We used to search all over for pencils with erasers because our little dog Sara would steal them all and eat them! Then we always ran out of paper as the kids like to color endlessly and not inform me that they used all the paper.
  • The last thing that is very convenient for my daughter is being able to face time her friends when they are working on a project together and being able to see exactly what they are doing. Oh and when they have a question, it’s not looking all over for an encyclopedia, they ask SIRI! SIRI always answers with an appropriate response and when she can’t she offers a suggestion. My daughters favorite question is SIRI what’s zero divided by zero! That always gives a good laugh.

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What’s The Biggest Challenge for Teachers Today?

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In today’s world our teachers face many challenges. Some are very fun and rewarding, while others are extremely hard to cope and deal with. I do not believe that every school should be dealt the same standards as certain conditions create an even bigger downfall for the students. Below I will explain the biggest downfall many students and teachers are faced with every day.

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  • Administrators say that “NO Child Will Be Left Behind” with a blind fold on. I do not believe they step foot into a classroom from a low class economy or they would see what these children and teachers face on a daily basis. These classrooms do not have computers, or smart boards, let alone enough funding to have a book for each student to use or enough paper to make extra copies. How does this provide an even teaching ground to for these students to be required to take the same standardized test as the children that come from a very elite school with all the bells and whistles? The government then uses the grades to evaluate how effective the teacher is when they have spent the first portion of their morning helping Alex get cleaned up in the bathroom so the other kids won’t pick on him and 4 other kids have not had breakfast and have no money to be able to buy anything to eat! Now the teaching time is an even smaller window and then you have to work extra hard to find ways to try and teach the material without the proper equipment.
  • Poorer economies provide a big breeding ground for drug, alcohol and child abuse. These children do not have options for extracurricular activities. When they are at home they do not get much attention from parents, as they are too busy either trying to make money to feed everyone or too busy getting high! The children are left undisciplined and this creates a negative behavior towards life. When you are trying to teach children with this background it is very difficult because they develop an avoidance behavior because they don’t want to keep feeling the failures. Teachers have to work with this low self-esteem and low desire to learn and develop a relationship with the student before the student will even try!

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  • So as our world is changing ever so fast with technology, many children are being left behind. Our teachers do their best to try and get access to a computer lab, but that is hard to do when there might be one lab for twenty classrooms to share. This makes it very hard to keep up and follow the daily requirements. Years ago most students came with values and discipline and not such a diverse home life. This made it easier for teachers as most children had the same resources to learn with and value system. Today children come to school and all have a very diverse home life and teachers have to tailor to each child. Most are behind on their reading levels while the government keeps increasing the standards. Yes many do have access to technology all the time and can use all the wonderful websites to keep advancing their knowledge. All this is doing is creating a very uneven playing ground for teachers in the classrooms, and when Alex comes home with poor test grades the teacher is to blame.

3 Baseline Methods Every Teacher Today Uses

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In a traditional classroom the teachers helped students to learn data and information. Memorizing facts and sitting quietly at your desk were the main goals for getting a gold star. As time evolved leaders and employers realized that star students were very smart in dead, but did not know how to use that knowledge in everyday life. Teachers then developed three learning methods that broadened students thinking skills, how to use the skills, and how to get to the results they want!

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Method #1- Inquiry Based Learning

In past years, students were encouraged to sit at their desk quietly, take notes, and to listen quietly. Today teachers are helping students to successfully think outside of the box and how to ask more questions pertinent to their problem and then finding the answers to them. Being inquisitive and asking a bazillion questions is the new goal for getting the gold star. This allows the students to gain knowledge and find truth that makes sense to them and applying it to their senses.

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Method #2- Problem Based Learning

With traditional teaching we were quietly at our desks as stated before. It was a very rare occasion when we may have been able to do a science project together as a group, and this was due to limited amounts of supplies.  Today students are encouraged to work together in groups and collaborate on the information that they do know and combine ideas. The teachers are there to facilitate them on how and where to look for new information they do not know and give ideas on how that may lead to solving the problem and stretch their understanding. Today the students are encouraged to act as investigators, move around and talk to each other in an environment of inquiry.

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Method #3- Project Based Learning

When students work together they learn many skills. Working together on a project can be done with any aspect of learning. It causes a greater depth of understanding concepts broaden the knowledge base, improves communication and interpersonal skills, enhances leadership, increases creativity, and improves writing skills. Students are learning by doing each of these skills. One becomes a leader and helps dictate and organize. Another student is learning how to work with someone and take direction from a peer. The students then all learn to listen to the ideas from each other and it then sparks more creativity in their own minds. The teachers are there to show them how to incorporate their project into real life and how to get the end results that matter. This is a huge motivation for students because they see the real impacts and they are learning by doing.

I find these methods to be very inviting to all kinds of students with all different types of learning levels and personalities. For the restless students they are able to move around and talk, and for the quiet shy student it helps them learn to interact with other students. Some students have no imagination, while others have wild imaginations, helping encourage the other student to think wildly!

Teaching with Today’s Concerns

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Working as a teacher today in the High School raises many concerns. More than just the average hopes that every child did their homework.  The thoughts of whether or not you will make it home at night. The hopes that there are no emergencies. Do I have enough money on me in case there is a student that needs something. Before I walk through the doors I better say my morning prayers for all my students as we all know you can’t pray at school.

In today’s classrooms safety is a huge concern. If the children are feeling unsafe they will not fully engage in the class lessons. In today’s world there is more and more violence and irrational behavior from the students. These children are growing up with more problems than anybody should ever have to deal with. The school tries to reach out to the troubled students and sometime that causes them to push away more. The students then bully the other students to try and make themselves not look so bad. Then this leads to aggressive fights. Last week was a bad one and I still have a shiner from trying to block a punch.

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As I am teaching lessons through the day I have to pay careful attention to the student’s behaviors. Many students come to school unfed or overtired because they were thrown out of the house the night before. Some students are withdrawing from the lesson. On a daily basis students are getting high on a variety of drugs throughout the day. I need to make sure they appear safe. I have to be careful to not insinuate anything to a child that is high as they will text their parents saying we called him a druggy. Then the principal will receive many phone calls.

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I feel within the last five years that the atmosphere in the public school has drastically changed. Its more than preparing your lessons. Most of the students are behind on their reading levels. I try to work extra hard trying to catch them up. Its teaching the student’s morals, how to bathe properly, helping them learn basic living skills, and ensuring that the troubled students will have what they need at night when they go home.

Before the students exit the last period class we must heavily supervise the hallways and bathrooms. The end of the day fights will start breaking out. Drug sales will begin. Most of the students selling the drugs get them from their parents, who have asked them to make some money!

A lot of people talk about how easy it is to be a teacher. How they make too much money for what they have to do. With the new Common Core Standards, we shouldn’t need as many teachers at the school. People really need to sit back and come visit for a day in a classroom. It is a very stressful environment for both teachers and students. I believe that teachers are special people with huge hearts to take on such a task!

Technology Helping Our Teachers

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The classroom is a very unique experience. Never once did one class or teacher resemble another nor will it ever, but technology is something that is the same in most classrooms today. Teachers are finding great benefits to adding the different technologies that are available to them today for many reasons.

  • Students are eagerly waiting in their seats with their hands up to be chosen to be the first to work on the smart board, to play the spelling game with a peer. Four other students are already on the computers trying to get higher scores on their math facts program. A program that works with the individual student at perfecting their math facts at their own pace. All while this is happening the teacher is able to individually work with other students who are struggling in other areas. It’s as if you were cloned and there are four of you teaching in the classroom now.
  • One problem that teachers have always had was keeping the children focused. With the programs available to aid in learning, the children are excited and eager to learn. There is so much more interaction during lessons doing research and interacting with other classrooms and students. The other day my daughters 6th grade class was able to Skype with a former student that now works at NASA and they incorporated their science lesson into real life! The students were enthralled and spent many excited hours preparing for the lesson. This then reaffirmed to the students that all of the little lessons they are learning in class will one day be meaningful and have a purpose. I know, as a child, I always wondered what any of this would matter to me when I grew up. With thoughts like that in my head I often had little interest in fully engaging in the lesson and only doing what I had to. Today the lessons are made so much more interesting by being able to put it into real life situations.
  • One other very nice perk for many teachers is a smaller amount of papers to carry also. Instead of having to carry home 80 research projects it’s all on a zip drive. Teachers do not hear the excuse anymore that my dog ate my homework. Now their response is, the file said it was too large to go into drop box!

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As you can see it has changed things in a positive way for the students and teachers who have access to these great amenities. Teaching is no longer about memorizing facts and figures, it’s about incorporating it into our daily life. Today students can virtually talk with students in Paris to do research projects or use Google and internet resources to solve complex problems. I remember as a child it was a lot of work to interview someone and put together information for a paper. It took a lot of time and traveling to libraries. Today I was able to email with a teacher for an interview about her aspect of the classroom, and research articles right from my living room all in an hour! MY biggest wish would be for every student to have the same ability to have access to these great things coming into our world.

A Typical Day as a High School Student

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Its 7:20 am. And the bell has just rung to enter the hallway where my locker is. I try to get my books situated for my first three classes, but how am I going to carry all of these books? Thank you to my fellow classmates for always trying to sneak illegal items into school. It’s during the first ten minutes when most of the drug exchanges take place anyways. So why do we all need to be punished? Yes, the teachers constantly remind me it’s for my safety, but why do I need to be so concerned about my safety at school? Why do all the doors need to be locked? Why is there minimal privacy in the bathroom? On to first period class I go. Hopefully things don’t go to array today.

9:13 and it has already begun. Code blue was just announced on the intercom. I wonder what has happened. That usually means there is a medical emergency of some point. Given then time frame I am going to guess a drug overdose. I sure hope it’s not serious. All the classrooms are closed up tight and very quiet. All of a sudden everyone starts receiving text messages saying that Serena was having a really bad seizure and wasn’t breathing.

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Another student announces, “She took a bunch of cold medicine before class started”.

I finally hear the sirens echoing in the background and a few moments later the code blue has been lifted. I sit and wonder why as my teacher tries to attempt to resume our lesson.

9:35 another code blue has been announced and the cell phones are going crazy immediately. Another student has overdosed on cold medicine! Joe hollers out to everyone he is blue and foaming at the mouth. But this time the rescue squad was much slower to respond. It seemed like eternity. We could see the nurse working on the student in the classroom across the hall from ours. I feel like I am going to be sick. We wait and at last he has been whisked away by the paramedics. I sit and wonder if there have been any other students that have taken to many drugs today.

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9:50 the secretary announces that we are in a lock out. That all the doors have been secured and no one is allowed to let anyone in the school. At this time, I am an office worker in the main office and i have been asked to go wait in a conference room down the hall. As I sit here I try and listen carefully. I over hear the secretary and principal talking with great concern because the parent of one of the students was going to come and take care of everyone for not keeping her daughter safe. How have we allowed her to overdose again!  I don’t want to be hear anymore, I need to go to the nurse. I’m going to be sick. I wish I was able to carry a bag with me so I could have a snack to settle my stomach.

9:55 I arrive in the nurse’s office and I wait, as she is in distress on the phone, with an office full of students. I just want to go home. I’m shaking and there is nowhere to go to feel safe.