Common Core Conversation

This week I had an interesting conversation with a classmate in one of my other classes that has continued to be on my mind. It was very interesting in light of the conversations that we have been having the last few weeks. My classmate is an education PhD student who does research on the Common Core curriculum. She is a proponent of the Common Core because the goal of it is to raise the standards for children to have them be college ready. Which, okay, fine, I understand that—there are certain skills that we need to have to succeed in college. However, does everyone have to go to college to succeed?

In part due to this GEDI course and in part due to my own opinions on education, I had trouble understanding the side of the Common Core curriculum. I asked a couple of questions and probed a little bit. At one point in our conversation we got to Montessori schools. She said that the students who were attending Montessori schools are not testing at the same level as the public school children on these standardized, Common Core, tests. My question to that was, “so what?” Why does that matter? The argument to my question was that then these children would not be able to succeed in high school or college—that they would not be able to enter/enroll in some of the schools. It has been three days and I am still bothered by that.

I think in many ways it comes back to the idea that to succeed, we must go to college. It also comes back to the notion that one size fits all, though I know that was not her argument. I have trouble seeing how students learning certain concepts that are necessary in life, like writing skills, have to be done at a certain age in their life. Additionally, how might we teach some of these skills in ways that students can learn them through a multitude of learning styles?

In all of our discussions about standardizations and teaching for the test, I keep coming back to alternative models of education. Some of them we have discussed in class or read about, such as schools that use technology and media. Some of them I have written about before, including Montessori schools. But I also keep thinking about the fact that there is such a movement towards homeschooling in our nation right now—in part due to government spending on education, in part due to the testing culture, religious reasons, etc. Overall, I am fascinated by alternative styles of education and within that, I like to read articles and blogs on homeschooling. There was one article that I came across recently that discusses the fact that so many families who are involved with the tech industry in California are choosing to homeschool their children. These families are using the technologies that they work with and live with to enhance their kids’ educations. However, deeper than that, they are taking education into their own hands because it allows more creativity in how and what they learn. It allows for learning problem solving skills and critical thinking on projects. These are all amazing skills to have, especially in a world where have more entrepreneurs and people who can create such change. All of these alternative methods of education, including Reggio Emilia that my peers have been mentioning on their blogs, are more about the skills that students learn than the facts they can acquire. Skills that are transferrable across disciplines, career paths, life goals are things that we need to focus on helping our students learn as much as making sure they know the so-called facts.

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