Yes this post is long! And most of you will probably not read past the first paragraph. But if you want to hear a complete unbiased opinion, then keep reading. I will be the first to admit that I do not know everything there is to know about the Common Core Standards (CCS). As a matter of fact, during my research over the past few day I have probably walked away more confused than anything. So this blog post is by no means meant to be informative about the CCS, but rather a discussion about the pros and the cons. It is an attempt to learn more factual information rather than opinionated views. Because so far all I have been able to find are articles written by people who are angry that the government is mandating the change. That point is kind of null at this point since the change has been mandated, right? So where do we go from here? What does this mean?
Let me start with a definition of Common Core Standards: The CCS is a set of common K-12 content standards in English/Language Arts and Math that is expected to be adopted in all fifty states so that education will be standardized throughout the country. The purpose is to impose rigorous standards so that our students will be better prepared for competing in the global economy and to allow for comparison of student performance among states.
There are soooooo many opinions floating around out there about weather or not the mandated change for CCS is a good thing or a bad thing. I posted a question on my Facebook wall about this and I had tons of response and lots of various opinions. Some people believe that the CCS is the just another step in the direction toward becoming a socialist country. People are upset about the fact that the federal government imposed the mandated change without any say from teachers, parents or states. Others are upset that each state will have the same standard. People are saying that the problem isn’t with the standards themselves, but rather the way that they were adopted and claim that government should have zero say in what is taught in schools.
So here is where I start questioning things:
My first question is this: What’s the big deal? I honestly do not understand how CCS can be a bad thing. Unless I am missing something (which is very likely) I can only see benefits for the CCS. Once everyone gets over the fact that the federal government has inserted themselves into the decision making process and basically trumped the state’s level of any decisions regarding education, they will realize that the CCS has been implemented into 45 of our 50 states for several years now anyway, even though it wasn’t officially mandated. I get that people do not LIKE the way everything was put into action. I mean it sucks. It really does. Everyone loves to hate the federal government. I get that. But what I don’t get is how wanting our nation’s students to be smarter and achieve higher can be a bad thing.
I have lived in the south my entire life. I grew up in a tiny town in Louisiana before I moved to an even smaller town in Tennessee. My graduating high school class had less than 50 students. When I was in high school, I did not have very many educational opportunities. That is probably the reason that I made a career out of going to college for twelve years. I probably have more college hours than anyone in history! But honestly I was intrigued with college. I wanted to learn everything. So I took a million classes that I didn’t even need for graduation. My student loans will prove it!
Here’s the thing… With shows on television such as My Big Redneck Vacation, Honey Boo Boo, My Big Redneck Wedding, and Swamp People, the entire country thinks that everyone in the south is a redneck uneducated hillbilly. Every single time I watch the news, the news reporter is interviewing someone with rollers in their hair, rotten front teeth, and speaking horribly improper english. GUESS WHAT?! We may not ALL be typical southerners. But the country’s view of how educated southerners are is not totally off base. In the state of Tennessee there are major cities such as Nashville, Franklin, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville. The best education is where the money is. Franklin has one of the highest ranking educational scores in the state which is no surprise since that is the most expensive place to live in the state. But Nashville, our state’s capital for crying out loud, scores the lowest score ever! And what about these small rural communities such as Manchester, Smithville, and Gordonsville? They don’t stand a chance because there is no money for the schools!
One other thing to note that critics are not happy about is the fact that when states conform to the CCS standards they qualify for a waiver that releases them from the No Child Left Behind expectations. This is a good thing right? It is my opinion that the No Child Left Behind Act is the worst thing that has ever happened to our education system because teachers could no longer focus on the child’s best interest or learning style because they had to start teaching kids to the test because this test score determined funding. UGH! This is why we homeschool. It no longer became about my child but rather this stupid test. CCS critics believe that the new standards will be “dumbing down” what is already in place for many areas of the country. But what I don’t understand is why they believe that they have to dumb it down? When you are in a southern state like Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana where schools are doing badly overall in comparison to schools in other states, then something needs to be done. Tennessee rates number 46 out of 50 states for test scores. So while critics will have you believe that the CCS will actually be “dumbing down” education, that simply is not true. CCS is meant to serve as a bare minimum set of skills that each grade level is expected to learn. Does that mean that we can’t teach them more? I would think that states still have the control to ADD TO the CCS right? This is an area I am not clear on, but seriously… why not?
The federal government has given 360 million dollars to create new computerized tests for students that conform to the new CCS. There is a lot of criticism about this because it is believed that at some point it will become the state’s responsibility to pay for these tests. Most criticism about the CCS has been aimed toward the money that this will cost and the federal government getting involved. But this country has been in a downward spiral for years and years. Yes I understand that money does not grow on trees but for crying out loud can we focus on students for a little bit?
So I ask you this? How exactly is the CCS a bad thing when it will allow failing schools to have the same opportunities as higher ranking schools? How can it be a bad thing that students all over the country will be able to compete with each other in the national workforce rather than just the local?
I keep reading articles that people are posting. And I have tried to do some research myself but I can’t get past everyone being mad at the government over the whole thing to find anything substantial out about the actual standards. So far everything I am reading is just people stomping their feet and getting mad because nobody at the state level had any say about it. And I get that, but I want to know aside from the fact that the government forced this… NOW WHAT? What does it truly mean for kids?
Now on the flip side of this, I definitely see some areas for concern. But like any rational person, I believe that concerns can be addressed and problems can be fixed. But what about representation? If the states are no longer in charge of education, then who will the school systems contact when there are problems with the curriculum working in the classroom? Right now it seems that there is no one available to represent the classroom. This is definitely a problem… but a problem that I believe will be addressed quickly. Maybe not! We shall see. But let’s hope so.
So what about home schoolers? What does the CCS mean for homeschool students? Well groups like Stop Common Core would have us all believe that home schoolers are threatened by CCS because the government wants to control EVERY ASPECT of education even for home schoolers. But there is simply no evidence that home school families have anything to worry about. To be honest a lot would have to change other than CCS. CCS may be able to strip the state of their say in education in the public school classroom because of grants that the government supplies to the school if they comply. And since every school wants more money, of course they are going to comply! But parents do not receive government funding to educate their children at home, and there is simply NO REASON for homeschool families to be alarmed at this time. The only reason for homeschool families to be alarmed would be when the government wants to step in and remove our rights to home educate altogether. And I’m pretty sure that is just NOT going to happen.
I am going to end this post by copying and pasting something that was shared on my Facebook wall surrounding this topic by one of my friends who does not homeschool her children. This is what she had to say:
“There is a lot of misinformation and misuse of terms in this thread (i.e. “socialist”). Common Core is geared towards schools who are at risk of not performing well (low income, minorities, etc.) just like IDEA is aimed at school districts that tend to not provide a FAPE for kids with disabilities. It in no way hinders teachers from going above and beyond. The problem with placing decisions at the state level is that in states where they have a large rural, uneducated adult population, the need for higher educational standards will not be a priority thus perpetuating the poor educational standards and subsequently poverty and all that goes along with it (unemployment, discrimination, obesity, etc.). There is no single fix for anything, but quite honestly if some states were left to their own devices, they would eliminate things like the holocaust or basic scientific principles from their curriculum, which is not beneficial to the country as a whole. As consumers of information, we have to be careful where we find our information about topics like this. Staying away from biased news media such as MSNBC and Fox News is best. And any time we see inflammatory terms like “socialism” you can almost bet it’s more of an opinion piece and not factual information. The only opinion we should hold is our own, which is based on our own research and reading of the actual law and peer reviewed, scholarly research. Funny fact: I read one article talking about how Common Core is leading to socialism and how kids in the new “program” were making socialist flags. Considering that socialism is an economic system and not a country, I found this humorous.”
Honestly her statement hit the nail on the head! (Forgive the southern term) Everything I have found online about the CCS has been so tainted with opinion instead of facts that matter, I can’t gather for myself whether this is a good thing or bad. People like those who have formed websites and groups such as Stop Common Core have listed some great factual information, but they have tainted it with negative tones and biased opinions so that people who read their message will jump on board for their cause. Now don’t get me wrong. They have some valid points. But are they so stupid to believe that the American public is not able to see right through their agenda? Groups like Stop Common Core are hoping that the general public is too idiotic to form their own opinion simply because they throw some fancy terminology and true facts at you. But the fact that they are tainting the information with tone and biased opinion, to me, makes them unreliable.
So I urge you ALL… both home school families AND public school families… to consider where you are drawing your information from before jumping on board with one side of the argument or the other. Don’t allow yourself to form an opinion from tainted or biased information. Be smart! And let our kids’ education be the main priority… not keeping the federal government out and not the focus on where the money is going to come from. Stop letting MONEY run our country and start letting someone do what is best for our students!
And because I am a photographer, and this is a really long post… I leave you with a photo. One that has nothing to do with this topic, but a photo nonetheless.