John Florez: Let's make education's Common Core Standards work

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  • Steven Harper Salt Lake City, UT
    June 12, 2012 5:27 p.m.

    I always enjoy the wisdom of one of our community's stalwart elders, John Florez. If you know who Chicken Little is, thank the teacher - either at home or in school - who shared stories with you when you needed them the most. By 11th grade the Common Core Standards suggest that 70% of reading in schools is from informational texts: because those are the texts that we read in college and in the workplace. Students can still read "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" as young readers, but technology-enhanced 21st century literacies are evolving every day. Schools need to increase the rigor that these new standards represent to help current students get some traction in a rapidly changing world. But they are just standards. They are not pedagogy or curriculum. They DO raise the bar, however, but in ways that good teachers - at home and in school - can develop to make sure that ALL students in our increasingly diverse country have the opportunity to achieve excellence.

  • bountifulmomofsix BOUNTIFUL, UT
    May 30, 2012 10:03 a.m.

    Race to the top is meant to help our children. No Child Left Behind is meant to level the playing field. Common Core Curriculum is meant to improve our system. Good is always intended, in some way or another. Another five or ten years will show which parents have done their homework about the latest 'plan'. Our children will either be benefited or not. I hope that Common Core will be an improvement but with the track record of Utah's Education Board, I have difficulty trusting their judgment.

  • hollyj7 EPHRAIM, UT
    May 28, 2012 4:02 p.m.

    I absolutely agree with you, John Brown 1000. Kids need to read modern fun fiction; a lot of it. There is NOTHING more important than getting kids to like reading. After spending 2 school years teaching enjoyment of reading (a la "The Book Whisperer" by Donnalyn Miller), I have come to the conclusion that it does work, but kids ALSO need specific instruction in academic comprehension, and a gentle nudge to gradually raise the level of their reading material, because they won't do it on their own.

    The common core doesn't switch the focus as much as it adds comprehension of information text as a separate standard. As I said in my previous post, students can't learn on a high school or college level if they can't read well. And that means knowing how to read and understand textbooks and other nonfiction. As sad as it is, it's true.

  • John Brown 1000 Laketown, UT
    May 28, 2012 10:57 a.m.

    Does anyone know of a website that presents the arguments for and against the common core?

    Mamma C, I read through core for 7th and 8th grade LA. Where does it dictate a 50/50 split? I didn't see that anywhere.

    Hollyj7, if the core does indeed switch focus to non-fiction, that poses a problem. When kids read for enjoyment, they spend massive amouts on time reading. Hundreds of hours per year more than those who don't enjoy it. And their skills improve as a result.

    What such kids are enjoying is the experience of fiction. Harry Potter increased literacy rates among the youth. Twilight continued it. Books about motorcycles and snowboarding and Utah history do not do that. Reading for information does not provide the same experience. Classic literature that's way above their reading and maturity level does not do that. It's fiction. Once a kid gets hooked on the next Fablehaven, Deltora Quest, Cirque de Freak, etc. they will read, read, read.

    Any standard that fails to focus on popular literature is going to backfire because it ignores natural motivation.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 27, 2012 11:59 p.m.

    Let's go back to how schools worked in the 1930's, 40's, 50's, and modify the current obsessions for tests, tests, and more harder tests.

  • hollyj7 EPHRAIM, UT
    May 27, 2012 9:07 p.m.

    The common core actually leaves a lot more of the specifics up to the teacher than Utah's old core curriculum did. It is really just a set of standards for what students should be able to do in which grade level. It doesn't say anything about HOW it should be taught, or WHAT should be taught. All of that is left up to the schools, districts, and teachers. I have really liked it this year in my classroom. I feel justified in raising the difficulty of my students' reading material.

    As for lowering the learning standards by trading half the literature for "info texts", the word "text" refers to written work, not necessarily textbooks. Even so, students need this. They are reaching high school and college unable to read and comprehend textbooks.

    And students who have a good understanding of mathematical concepts do far better in algebra and calculus classes, even if they don't take them in high school. We are in such a hurry to get kids through these classes, that we don't care if they understand the concepts or not.

  • travelrus murray, UT
    May 27, 2012 8:21 p.m.

    Ok Mamma C and Oak I took your challange and spent a good part of today studying CCSS, and SBAC, not my first look at the topic by the way, and Have come to the conclusion that the article is correct in calling you a bunch of "Chicken Littles". Your extreme fear of anything tied to the federal government overrides your ability to look at Common Core objectively. Granted, common core is not the end all solution to all the problems with public education in our country, but it seems to me to be a vast improvement over the hodgepodge of state standards of varying quality and consistency across the country. The Standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college and their careers. This will result in moving even the best state standards to the next level. The Standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed.

  • ShaunMcC La Verkin, UT
    May 27, 2012 9:19 a.m.

    It strikes me that having a governor's group or the Federal government telling teachers what they must do is kind of like asking Walmart managers from around the country to come together to tell insurance company employees how to write their policies. There is a major disconnect. It seems like asking teachers that are known as excellent teachers from around the country to get together and think about how to improve educational outcomes would be a lot more sensible and effective. Most of the federal directives I saw when I was teaching were either a distraction or a downright interference in doing my job effectively. Let teachers teach - please. Let the states and local citizens and parents guide education - they actually might care about the students instead of programs.

  • Oak Highland, UT
    May 26, 2012 9:39 p.m.

    Far fewer children will make it to calculus now because once a student is on track to take algebra in 9th grade, they'll never hit calculus. Utah is one of 2 "integrated math" states. No more discrete years. When I hit algebra 1 in 9th grade many years ago, I knew I wanted to take calculus so I doubled up in 10th grade and took geometry and algebra 2. That will never happen in Utah now.

    Like No Child Left Behind, Common Core will become the new federal program. Just this week the feds announced they are doing another round of Race to the Top money straight to school districts and large individual schools, so they can bypass the states (like Texas that didn't adopt CC) and hook districts on federal money and strings. Anyone who can't see this is a federal takeover of education is deceiving themselves. The feds funded the assessments to the tune of $350 million. The Gates Foundation paid $20 million to the NGA and CCSSO to entice them to create national standards. There's plenty more for those who take the time to get educated just like Mamma C mentioned above.

  • Autumn Cook Lehi, UT
    May 26, 2012 9:02 p.m.

    I've researched the things you mention, Momma C., and I agree with you. I've never found someone who has researched these things that would think you're off-base with your analysis. People like you never say, "Don't look behind the curtain." You always say, "Just READ it!" I wish more people would take you up on the challenge.

    The idea that the Common Core standards were developed by Governors is off-base and misleading. They were developed by the bureaucrats at the National Governors' Association Center for Best Practices. Coincidentally, the NGA Center is funded by Federal grants and contracts, among a few other sources. The governors probably signed on to them because they sound good. But some governors are starting to take a second look, as their constituents begin pointing out what their State Superintendents failed to mention when they got their states into the deal - that stepping into the Common Core Initiative will take decisions about educating our children out of our hands, and put it into the hands of bureaucrats at the SBAC, which is accountable to the Federal government.

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    May 26, 2012 6:23 p.m.

    Truth is truth and it matters not whether Mama C is a member of any forum or not. Like No Child Left Behind, the Common Core sounds good on the surface and was made with good intentions, but in the end will do little to improve education because it doesn't address the real problem: student disinterest, lack of strong parental support, (a few) weak teachers, and poor teaching methods. Education used to get the best of the best, but, because of low pay and lack of respect, many who would have made great educators now choose other professions. I echo Howard Beal's comments entirely.

    Another side to this is that we have legislators with no educational background or sense making laws and decisions and dictating how schools should be run. Principals, who should be a driving force in their schools, are afraid (or unwilling) to make decisions because of their fear of the school boards and over-reaching superintendents. Micro-managing curriculum is killing the creativity of the truly gifted teachers.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 26, 2012 4:30 p.m.

    The common core probably has some benefits and good ideas but it will fail not because of the "chicken littles" or because it is bad curriculum per se, but it will ultimately fail because without increased student and parental accountability, nothing will ultimately change in education. Much is thrown at the teacher, and way too much blame for sure. The other thing needed is to get off our teacher's back and pay them more and show them more respect. Then any kind of curriculum will work better under those elements.

  • travelrus murray, UT
    May 26, 2012 2:28 p.m.

    Mamma C I would not just call you a chicken little. What you are saying is just fear-mongeeing. I would put money on it that you are a member of Eagle Forum. Right?

  • Mamma C HEBER CITY, UT
    May 26, 2012 11:45 a.m.

    It is unreasonable to call those of us who oppose Common Core chicken littles. Our concerns are real. Have you read the SBAC Cooperative Agreement that binds Utah to federally imposed and triangulated tests? Have you seen the standards themselves, or read the reviews by Dr. Sandra Stotsky and James Ingram of the Validation Committee?

    Have you researched the P-20 Data Collection workforce that turns educators into surveillance teams? Have you read the ways in which the Common Core standards actually lower our learning programs by getting rid of 50% of literature in favor of info texts, by pushing Algebra I to 9th grade when it used to be for 8th grade, and so much more? The standards are mediocre at best. The fact is that we cannot amend them. The NGA has put a copyright on the standards. Please educate yourselves on what Common Core really does to kids' chances to learn. Please read how the SB10 will create three diplomas that will prevent kids from going to a higher track. These educational reforms are altering our freedoms and restricting our power to innovate.