Thursday, December 3, 2015

Common Core Standards (or More of the Same)

     The jury is in:  Common Core Standards is NCLB Part II, meaning schools continue to teach to the standardized tests to the detriment of students' health, creativity, independent thinking, leadership and team development, societal values, socialization, artistry, and chief of all, schools' reason for being: love of learning.  For I don't know a single child who loves this Phd developed teach-to-the-test curricula that focuses to an obscene degree on grilling students on test taking techniques via test after test after test of sample questions that are disguised as homework.
     I don't know of any credible teacher that loves this shove-it-down-their-throats mandates.
     I can't imagine any good, caring, loving, thoughtful parent that would love doing it themselves.
     Here are some of the evidence of this misfocus, forced by politicians in Washington D.C. who are making captive schools who want big grant dollars (bribes)--nearly everyone--to their fixed, know-it-all agendas:
  • None of my kids have regular P.E.  Our nation is in the midst of an obesity and sedentary lifestyle health-related epidemic--even among growing numbers of youth--and more and more schools are choosing to reduce or cut P.E. to try to make arbitrary test cut-off scores.
  • Same's true with art, though ample evidence suggests that students who take art tend to do better in academics.  (There appears to be a link between creativity and analytical problem solving.)
  • I ask my kids everyday, "What did you learn in school today?" and they so often draw blanks because they spend class time reviewing (getting drilled on) test taking techniques or taking quizzes and tests.  Most nefarious is "computer time" during which they mostly take sample standardized tests.  This should be banned during normal school hours as it's just a form of lazy "teaching."  In essence, it's T.V. with an academic sheen:  Kids hunt for answers (in text, say) and forget all the content.  Getting the correct answer is all that matters, learning is secondary (or inconsequential).
  • The school topics my kids get excited about are largely non-academic:  politics (Braden), orchestra and teacher jokes and anecdotes (Pene), games and other social contacts (Jaren).  Thank God they have something that engages them in school.  Too bad it's not more often academics.
     The whole notion that a nation of expert standardized test takers will be comprise a better prepared and qualified workforce for international competition is absurd.  How would our nation's greatest leaders and businessmen and scientists even have done on these standardized tests?  Think Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Franklin, Ford, Edison, Carnegie, Jobs, Walmart, Gates, King Jr., Whitney, Tesla, Oppenheimer, Patton, Tubman, MacArthur, Souza, Ellington, Gershwin, Lewis, Clark, Armstrong?  I think some would have scored miserably.  I think most would have hated them and thought them ridiculous wastes of time.
     Come on, can't we inject some common sense into our national academic agenda?  Shouldn't making all students life-long lovers of learning be objective number one at all our schools?  For of what benefit is superior test taking skills if a student hates learning and quits after high school or enters college only "to get a better job" while seeking to just get by with as little learning as possible?  Will that make him or her more competitive?  Or our nation stronger if more and more students feel that way?
     In business school, we learned that if you want to improve performance, measure that which you want improved.  Let's come up with better measures of student learning and love of learning than standardized tests.  We can do better and did do better, even when I was a kid and yes, when I loved learning. 

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