The Past, Present and Future Exploration of Common Core: Mindset

If you wish to read a blog that annihilates the Common Core, than this is not for you. This blog focuses on the standards ONLY, which does not include teaching practices or standardized testing.

In my last post, I discussed one of the front-running reasons why teachers and parents are disgusted with the Common Core: implementation. Now, I would like to explore our mindsets. We can’t change the past and re-implement these standards. But since they are here, how can we make the best of them and make them work for our students?

We have two options, really. We can fight to keep these standards, which will push our students’ thinking and their talents in math and reading to a higher level; or, we can turn our backs on these standards and our students, like Indiana recently did and South Carolina is planning on doing.

Are those really our only options, though? Instead of scrapping the Common Core altogether, how about we work together to make them better?! (Honestly, that is what Indiana did. Don’t let the Hoosiers fool you! They didn’t get rid of the Common Core. If you look closely, their newly proposed state standards are the Common Core, only revamped in areas that were of concern to them.) The CCSS are very ambitious standards. Are they perfect? No. But I think most educators would agree that we need some kind of uniformed standards amongst the 50 states that starts raising the bar for our students. So instead of dropping the standards altogether, let’s work together to fix them so we are all on the same level.

The other piece of our mindsets that is stopping us from fully accepting these standards is that they do something that past standards never did: not only do they require students to illustrate the “how” behind a problem, but also the “why,” and be able to explain this. This is something that young children in top-performing nations have been taught for years. In the United States, the Common Core attempts to teach our students to explain their thinking, and this is the result:

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Instead of helping our students PERSEVERE and THINK, parents (and some educators) are helping our students MAKE EXCUSES. Instead of TEACHING at higher levels, they are dismissing these rigorous questions as “inappropriate” and “too challenging” and giving their children a pass. Their reasoning? “This is not how I learned math (in this way),” which is usually followed up by, “…and I did just fine.” This negative and resistant mindset is handicapping our students’ education, and only making the Common Core more challenging.

Again, I began this blog entry by stating that I wasn’t going to discuss standardized testing. I’m not, and I sure do HOPE that parents and educators who are against the Common Core are not confusing the standards with the method by which they are measured. I understand the reasons many parents and educators do not support the testing system in the United States; but please let me make one thing clear: TESTING IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH STANDARDS. Don’t hate on the standards because our tests are frustrating and cause anxiety. The standards are not the tests, and the tests are not the standards. Apples and oranges, folks.

Where do we go from here? Now, more than ever, educators need to collaborate across the nation to find the best ways to teach to these standards. We need to band together against the nay-sayers and prove that these standards are important for getting the United States back in with the global competition. We need to urge politicians without significant educational backgrounds – at federal, state, and local levels – to remove themselves from education-related decisions. And we need to work harder than ever to clearly illustrate to our students that they CAN achieve success by reaching the grade-level goals set by CCSS, despite what others may say, and not only will they be prepared for college, they WILL BE READY for the WORLD when they graduate.

The Past, Present and Future Exploration of Common Core: Implementation

The Common Core. You either love it, hate it, or prefer to know nothing about it (ignorance is bliss). Or, maybe, you are like me, a person who has experienced nothing but flip-flopping emotions since this initiative was revealed in 2010. Either way, these nation-wide standards have stirred up quite the controversy amongst educators and parents.

This is the first blog of a three-blog series where I plan on addressing three questions about CCSS: Who is truly the bad guy: Common Core or state implementation of standards? What really needs to change: our standards or our mindsets? How will the Common Core impact our students at the college level?

Standards Vs. Implementation

The U.S. needs higher academic standards, I get it. We are falling behind in the international race of improving student learning and higher-thinking performance.
How do we fix this?
Obviously, we need to increase our expectations in the classrooms.
Sounds good. How?
Uhh, let’s create some new, more rigorous standards that will accelerate students in the areas of reading and math.
Done. Now what?

The next step was implementing these standards. Well, since each state began implementing the Common Core from extremely different levels, each state was given the right to implement CCSS in a way that worked best for them (as long as it was done by a certain date). The question is: did the states think before they started implementing?

As I was reading the Common Core standards for the first time, I thought to myself, Wow, these seem like very ambitious standards. And, to students in my home state of North Carolina, they were.

My fifth-graders were not going to magically acquire the knowledge and thinking-ability over an eight-week summer break to successfully be introduced to the new Common Core the following fall. Even so, there were so many concepts I would need to review with them, including the foundational skills of the fourth grade CCSS, for example, which they were never taught since we switched standards “overnight.”

Law makers and the department of public instruction knew that our teachers and students would need more than one year to adapt to these new standards. For goodness sake, they waived last year’s End of Grade Test as a way to forgive the transition from old to new standards. But is waiving a test score helping anybody? That does not sound like effective implementation to me.

Many states switched to the Common Core for all grade levels right off the bat (while thinking, We must keep Race to the Top funding!) But I would assume that processes as large as changing an entire curriculum for K-12 students usually work better at a gradual speed. Adopting the Common Core is not a negative thing. Flipping standards for each grade level overnight? Very negative.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

How could this nation-wide standards implementation have been considered positive? Simply put, this adoption would have been much more successful if slowly implemented over a longer period of time, and not pushed by the Secretary of Education to be completed in the snap of two fingers.

Let’s say Kindergarten and first grade adopted CCSS for the first school year, followed by second and third grades the following year, and then fourth/fifth, etc. Meanwhile, teachers of higher grades are receiving professional development in the area of teaching Common Core. In addition, the standards and the teaching of the standards by the lower grade levels are being closely monitored to analyze their appropriateness for each grade level and minor adjustments are made to fit the needs of students.

I know what the lawmakers are thinking: We don’t have time for this gradual nonsense…we need our test scores to be better than Korea’s NOW! But, at what cost? Flash forward to two years after the CCSS transfer has taken place (for most states). Are we any closer to competing with Singapore, Korea, Finland, or Japan?

Common, rigorous standards are not the enemy. A flash implementation of the standards is what is keeping our students from truly competing at the international level…well, that and a narrow mindset. But more on our mindsets later…

It Drives Me Crazy When…

…students come to class unorganized or unprepared. Maybe I should be better prepared to supply each of you with a new sharpened pencil every day, huh? Please. 

…the Internet browser takes forever to load the webpage. I know, I know. I’m impatient when it comes to technology.

…kids are blatantly disrespectful to adults, and adults are disrespectful to kids. No need for that.

…greedy politicians and/or corporations dictate any part of our nation’s system of education. I hope, by now, we have all witnessed how well that works out. (Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t.) 

…any person, young or old, litters. On my way to work yesterday, I saw a lady roll down her window and unleash a fist-full of junk onto the freeway. Seriously? I wish I would’ve known about the NCDOT’s Swat-A-Litterbug education program before then, because I would have happily reported her on the spot! (For more information on the Swat-A-Litterbug program, click here.)

…my students don’t recognize their potential.

…I am forced to interact with inconsiderate people. What defines an inconsiderate person? Well, according to That Math Lady, he or she is “a person who routinely acts or speaks before thinking about how the consequences of their actions or words will impact others.” 

…my clothes have static cling. 

…anyone acts arrogantly. Major turn-off. A little more modesty and humility will make this world a much better place.

…I realize, for the first time, that a friend or colleague has less integrity than I originally gave them credit for. Disappointing.

…there aren’t enough hours in the day to get all of my goals or tasks completed. Hence, the birth and rebirth of my never-ending To Do List. 

…I get addicted to social media, like Facebook. Why can’t I quit you, FB?

…adults use extremely poor grammar. I’m okay with a few common grammatically-incorrect phrases; for example, as you may have noticed, I don’t cringe when a sentence ends in a preposition. I rarely correct people (I’m definitely not perfect, so who am I to call out others?), but it still drives me crazy. (Hint: “could have” and “could of” are not the same.)

 

What drives YOU crazy? Do you share any of these same pet peeves? Share with me on Twitter, @thatmathlady, or in a comment below! 

What Barney Stinson Has Taught Me In Nine Years

Despite his relationship-phobia issues and womanizing-outlook on life, I feel that I have learned a lot from Neil Patrick Harris’s charmingly obnxious character on How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson. He may think way too dirty, act overly cocky, and make audiences doubt he isn’t bit of a sociopath, too, but despite his many character flaws, he has taught us some extremely important lessons. Now that the journey has ended, I would like to share with you a couple of the lessons I picked up along Barney’s journey on HIMYM:

1. Always believe in how awesome you are. Barney doesn’t accept the fact that he is anything below superior…the best…amazing…and most of all, awesome. “When I am sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” Maybe if we all believed in ourselves like Barney believes in himself, we’d be happier and more willing to take risks to enrich ourselves.

2. New is always better. Like Ted, you may have a dozen reasons why this rule of Barney’s isn’t true (like the grape-infused scotch). But I like to think that new can’t be any worse than the old. Running shoes. Cell phones. Car smell. Kittens. And if you like something that is “old,” aren’t you always reinventing that thing to make it stay relevant to your life?

3. Nothing suits me like a suit. Batman has his mask and Superman has his cape. We all have “costumes” that make us feel powerful and secure. Wear whatever makes you comfortable and powerful…weather it be an Italian 3-piece or a flannel button-down with jeans. At the end of the day, don’t try to be anyone else but YOU!

4. The Bro Code. The Bro Code is a list of rules that Barney (or one of his ancestors, we still aren’t sure) created for guys to follow. I learned a lot from the Bro Code, including Article 12, Bros don’t share dessert. The Bro Code Blog

5. Be a best friend. Although they were an unlikely pair from the beginning, Barney was convinced that he was Ted’s best friend, because Ted was his. Ted never confirmed this, but deep down both of them – and all of us – knew it was true. And even though this friendship was tested on a few occassions, their loyalty always brought them back to one another. I guess the lesson here is to have a friend, you need to be a friend. So start being friendly.

6. Everything has potential to be Legendary, so act like it. Who says today has to be an ordinary day? Who says that my math lesson that I have planned for my last block can’t be the best math lesson ever?! Don’t be bound by limitations and expectations…shoot for the moon! Make the most extraordinary lasagna your family has ever had! Go to work and have the best day of your life! Nobody has the power to make things legendary like you do, but it does start with you.

Thank you, Barney, for the many laughs and lessons. Time to go update my video CV….

I AM BACK!

I wanted a brand new blog for a fresh start back into the blogging world. However, at the same time, I was extremely distraught at the thought of losing all the months of writing I had already invested in the blogging world. Well, I was able to merge both worlds – the old and the new – and created (quite easily, I might add) a new blogging site while exporting my old blogs to it.  

I am looking forward to joining the realm of teacher/runner/math-enthusiast bloggers again!! It has been a long time, my virtual PLN, but I am back!!

Gotta run and catch the finale of How I Met Your Mother. Who knows, maybe my first real blog will be about that! #IforeverheartSwarley