Same Sh–, Different Test

Some of my colleagues, initially, liked the Common Core as compared to the Alaska State Standards and Grade Level Expectations that we taught from, previously. They said that these standards taught critical thinking, public speaking, technology integration, and complex projects.  But if there are any teachers out there who were naive enough to teach to these sorts of performance based aspects of the standards (me), you will soon realize that there is no test out there that remotely resembles complex problem solving, critical thinking, or creative thinking, and they are in for a big fall.  After all those weeks you spent teaching kids skills that they have Never been required to do, this is likely what happened.

The “unit” probably took twice as long as you thought to teach kids how to choose a topic, narrow down a topic, research without paraphrasing, organize ideas, revise, prepare a speech, refine speaking skills, and create a technological aid.  Hopefully, you didn’t have an action component (like me)  that required being published in the real world or doing something in the community that connected to their thesis.  Boy, was that stupid.  Most kids that used to love you probably now hate you.  Too many students quit during the research stage because it’s just “too hard.” Most of those kids’ parents who used to tolerate you since your kids liked you, now hate you. The principal, therefore, now hates you. You probably had classroom management issues that you never had in your career because sitting in rows filling in worksheets, reading, and writing silently, made you look like a master teacher.  Now, you look like a middle aged dingbat who doesn’t know what you’re doing. How did s/he even make this long as a teacher, people whisper, that’s why we need to get rid of tenure!  After weeks of staying after school, emailing kids at night, making sure everyone had some sort of a product, the kids perform, and lo and behold, (as long as you cushioned the grades considerably), the kids are actually proud of what they accomplished.  But even though the kids came around (which they always do, if everyone else would just back off), the parents and principal still hate you, and you still look like a dingbat.  I could live with that, believe it or not. But to top it off, in the spring, when it is time to take the Common Core exam that will grade you as a teacher, alas, there are no questions about how to write a research paper.  The students are not asked to stand up give a speech on a matter of ultimate concern, and they are certainly not asked to sit in a circle and discuss the layers of meaning in a piece of literature with their peers. No, they are asked to identify the dependent clause, the word that doesn’t belong, and the simple subjects in a compound-complex sentence.  While those standards were certainly in the core, they were a fraction of what was expected of you to teach.  And though you taught them, they didn’t get the attention they could have because you were teaching kids to think critically and independently, show initiative, create, take a position, and find their voice.

Now, the newspaper will publish the test results. By this time, everyone forgot about the kids’ letters to the editor in the newspaper, except for the kids (many will save them for years to come). And again, with the exception of the kids (who are always, if given time and space, ultimately wiser than the rest of us),  the results will confirm what everybody already decided. That dingbat needs to go!

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