The Fire Side Chat- The Common Core

The Fire Side Chat- The Common Core

Jeffery Doherty and Boris Kaplan, Reporters

Why are we 27th in Math? Why are we 20th in Science? How did No Child Left Behind leave us all behind in education? At one time many pointed to poor education as being the main reason why we were left behind.  Leaders like President Barack Obama, and former President George W. Bush, decided that they would fix education. President George W. Bush outlined a plan where annual (year by year) testing for reading and math would be implemented.   Ultimately, the Federal Government was stepping in on the states with the goal of making schools better by rewarding or punishing schools based on “student performance.”  Funding was to be based on “school performance,” basically meaning each school’s graduation rate.  Bush wanted accountability. President Barack Obama and Joe Biden tried to fix the plan President George W. Bush had put in place by improving the terms of what accountability meant. Obama and Biden wanted to address the dropout crisis and improve student performance.

No Child Left Behind was an act of Congress in 2002, which tried to introduce the idea of Adequate Yearly Progress.  It stated that a school must have better standardized testing results than the previous year. If the school did not achieve this, then it would most likely be closed.  The school at that point could be turned into a charter school (run by private corporations) or run by specific state regulations. The act’s goal was to improve the quality of education, literacy, and improve opportunities for kids from poor communities. Furthermore, the act wanted schools to focus more on reading, writing, and math.   However, this forced nearly 3 quarters of schools to cut funding, and education time, for subjects such as art and music. 

Obama promised change in his his first campaign, and one of the changes was fixing the system that George W. Bush had put in place beforehand. Did Obama change it? No, he changed the name and furthered it. Obama’s idea of improving the system was that he would set a high bar for graduating high school students. He would reward poor schools for performing well, and the government would take control if schools that weren’t doing well for a period of time. Sound familiar? The policy was largely unchanged, instead, getting a new name and a new addition, the Common Core. It continued the increased focus on math, reading and writing.

The Common Core put into place an increased  emphasis on standardized testing, controlled by the government and the private sector. It was essentially a bribe by the U.S. government called Race to the Top.  The federal government would not give funding to a state’s education system, unless they signed with the Common Core. Previously, funding was given out to states through taxes collected by the federal government. Now, states have to sign onto the Common Core standards if states want to get funding at all. George W. Bush, however, gave out funding based solely on a state’s performance based on the No Child Left Behind standards. The Common Core further increased focus on standardized testings with new Common Core exams which have already replaced or modified exams for English, Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II (with Trigonometry almost being taken out entirely) and will modify Global History, U.S. History, and the Sciences. The Common Core also focused on making high school students ready for college.

There are many criticisms of the Common Core. Math is made more complicated and difficult to understand, while also getting rid of the more advanced parts of math that can make college level math easier to understand. English changed into analyzing the theme and literary elements of stories, and not much else. History essays will be changed to argumentative assessments, instead of  actual remembering and understanding of history and historical events. The Common Core is being infused into old testing standards, modifying what the standards will be in the future. Some states see it as a violation of states’ rights. Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have opted out of the Common Core program, as they wanted to take control of their own testing standards.

The reality of the situation is that students aren’t being prepared for an actual “college readiness.” Many teachers, and students, in high schools disagree with the amount of class time spent on group work.   While group work can be very effective at the elementary level, in high school students should start being trained for the formats that exist in college.  In addition, students are essentially taught how to pass a test, not understand the content they are being taught. To add onto this, with the changing of presidents, policy constantly changes every four to eight years, making policy like Common Core, or No Child Left Behind fragile. These policies can easily be removed in the next election cycle at the drop of a hat. Schools are forced to constantly change standards, when improving education means making a twenty year plan, not a four year plan. While funding for schools is being cut, the costs for meeting standards is rising, leaving schools almost broke. In the words of George W. Bush, “Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!” Yet we got fooled again by Obama, with his “changes” being the exact opposite of change.