Currently, I have children in a charter school as well as a traditional school. I have been very happy with the math program and flexibility/fluidity offered in the charter school with various subjects. The traditional school has been a reasonably good fit for my other child with the exception of the Common Core portion.
This whole year, despite still getting a good grade, my son has been struggling with math, has not gained a real understanding of key concepts, and we’ve been frustrated with the program ourselves. We couldn’t figure out why things were so unnecessarily difficult and, just this week, we found out the school has implemented the Common Core math program. Since then, I have talked to other parents in the neighborhood (and teachers) and heard the exact same concerns from them.
The program jumps from one concept to another unrelated concept, lacks foundation building, lacks review of the concepts they completed (they don’t see what they just learned a few weeks ago). It is the worst math learning program I’ve ever seen. I’ve had to teach my son the “right” way to do some of the problems because the way he was taught to do them was overly complex and turned simple things into a convoluted mess to get the same answer. The resulting lack of foundation knowledge to apply these critical math concepts has lead my wife and I to get some math books for him to go through this summer to actually gain a foundation and understand the concepts.
During the parent-teacher conferences, his teacher also expressed (politely, of course) frustrations with the lack of review and problem solving concept issues and is doing her best to incorporate reviews whenever she can. Her concerns about retention and application extend to the whole class.
After finding out that Common Core math was being used, I have begun looking into it more and have some serious concerns about Common Core and what it means for my children (and all children in the public education system); particularly, related to preparing realizing the full potential of current students when they enter the labor force.
The strength of the charter school and the ability to choose educational programs (including traditional schools) to fit the child will be significantly constricted by Common Core. The program is a top-down approach that effectively dictates what math/reading etc programs will be used and destroys the ability of schools (charter and otherwise) to offer their own unique programs or tailor curriculum to the students they serve. It destroys the small amount of educational choice we have. It is clear that one-size-fits-all approaches never truly “fit all” and significant numbers fall through the cracks. This is also reflected in the marketplace.
Schools are supposed to provide a basis for students to enter and compete in a broadening marketplace with a premium in innovation. The marketplace has consistently encouraged and delivered customizable solutions to consumers. Consumers are not interested in on-size-fits all products they must adapt to – the expectation is that products should adapt to the individual. This can be seen with the thousands of apps, software programs, food choices, brands, electronics, vehicles…virtually every consumer good is pushed to being able to be customized beyond small groups and clear down to the individual.
Common Core is, at it’s essence, a one-size-fits-all program that dictates what and how subjects will be taught. In that respect, it absolutely fails to acknowledge the market demanding customization. Besides constricting educational innovation to preclude delivery of the most effective tools to the individual student, Common Core will necessarily result in significant numbers of students falling through the cracks when the boilerplate math/reading/other program does not fit them. Furthermore, other students, while passing, will not meet their full potential without the ability to find the best fit.
Common Core fails to acknowledge the uniqueness of each child and will be a blow educationally and economically to children. It has already set back my child who now needs “math home school” this summer in order to regain a foundation. That is unacceptable.
UPDATE: An excellent personal experience essay from a teacher working on their Educaion Policy PhD.
UPDATE 2: Utah State Senator’s Weiler and Dayton have written on Common Core. Senator Weiler’s (What’s the deal with “Common Core”?) is detailed and received supportive comments from both sides (Dixie Allen on the State Board of Ed and Christel Swasey) – I highly recommend reading his post. Senator Dayton’s (Thoughts on NCLB & the Common Core) is brief but discusses the funding carrot link related to No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top and Common Core.