Thursday, April 24, 2014

Common Core State Standards

There are a few reasons I am writing about the Common Core State Standards. One of the big ones is that there is so much information out there, a lot of the resources are websites that are difficult to navigate, and if you don't know what you're looking for, it's even more difficult. I wanted to understand what these standards would mean for me, as well as my future students, their education and their parents. 

This past December, when I decided to come back to get my Master's so I could teach, I really didn't know what I was going to see on my path. I knew I loved working with kids. I am passionate about learning and helping others learn; even in a corporate working environment, I often took the role of adviser/trainer. However, I didn't know anything about the current educational climate or how it would affect me. In my first class back, Math 211, I was introduced to the term Common Core State Standards. Everyone in my class knew what they were, I however had no clue what that meant. I've gotten a lot of mixed opinions; some say they will definitely help more students to achieve their academic goals, others say that they will hinder the flow of the classroom and standardized testing is bad. Both are blanket statements, and I tend to not put much stock in blanket statements. So that meant it was time for me to do some reading and investigating of my own!

As of today, all but seven states have adopted these standards. While I think that there are things about the Common Core that are not going to benefit everyone, I think it is a fantastic place to start to get everyone on the same page. Our education system in the U.S. has been underfunded, neglected and taken for granted for a very long time. A lot of students are falling through the cracks; high school graduation rates are as low as 60% in some states. That means about 4 of every ten students aren't making it through high school in those states. While this is better than it has been in previous years, it's still very disheartening.

But what does all of this mean to me? Or my future students? The official website for the Common Core states that "To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade." These standards aren't just a list of things a group of people decided were benchmarks of a student's readiness to graduate to the next level; the folks that are helping to put these standards in place are educators and researchers who have put in many hours looking at students, classrooms, tests, and much more. All of these people care about the future of education as well as the future of our children.
The Standards set a guideline to show what kind of knowledge and comprehension a student should have in mathematics as well as language arts/literacy depending on their age and grade level. While the guidelines state what children should know, they leave it up to individual states to decide how they want these to be implemented and what content is used to further students' comprehension.

As I said earlier, I think this is a great place to start. There is a lot of opposition out there and a lot of arguments why this won't work. That students will get left behind, that there isn't required texts from state to state, that skills are only addressed and not content. But we are looking at an entire overhaul of the education system. It's not going to be perfect right away. Each state and local districts are able to decide how the Common Core looks in the classroom, but children, by and large, will be learning at the same pace as others on the other side of the country. Having these standards, I believe, will help many students to achieve their academic goals. It will help teachers to create concise and effective lessons. And while standardized testing isn't everyone's favorite thing, its a spring board to gauge students' knowledge and comprehension.

I also know that I have no first-hand experience with any of this yet. My views may change in the next year. But I also know that this is where education is going. Better to get on board early so I can fully understand all the tools at my fingertips! If you want to find out more information about the Common Core State Standards for your state, go here and choose the state you would like to know more about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'm going on an exciting trip!

Currently I am a graduate student in the Graduate Teacher Education Program at Portland State University. I am always looking for ways to learn, better my classroom experience and management, and being able to write about it all is a great way for me to reflect as well as to share with the world. I hope that going forward this blog will be an interactive place where I can share with parents and students, as well as my peers, creating a conversation that will benefit everyone. I consider myself an educational passionista; I love working with children and seeing that light turn on for a student fills my little heart with warm fuzzies. This is just the beginning of the road for me, but it's gonna be an awesome trip!