R.L. SAUNDERS

writer attempting real life in the middle of everybody else's vacation

Out with the old, in with the old

on January 25, 2014

After attending a meeting about implementation of the new Common Core standards into the math curriculum, I’m reminded that, while I really like my daughter’s school (especially because she loves it), I’m increasingly disenchanted by public education on the whole.

There was a math expert at the meeting to tell us how it’s all going to be different this time. She also reminded parents what a VERY BIG DEAL the 11th grade testing will be for our children. The very big deal is that a score of 4 or 5 will mean our children are “college ready” for math, while a 3 or lower means, well, DOOM. Like, they might have to take a preparatory math class their freshman year in college.

The parents’ eyes got bigger and more full of concern with every emphasis on the impending Very Big Deal assessment (12 years away for some at the meeting). “It’s a big deal,” the expert repeated. “A very big deal.”

But is it a very big deal if your kid takes a preparatory math class to start college? Is it really? I can think of some much bigger deals. And get ready, wide-eyed, terrified parents, because college might not even be the best option for our kids right out of high school, or ever. Let’s work at being genuinely okay with that. Let’s be proud, even, and open to all of the cool ways our kids might find to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society.

And pardon my skepticism about Common Core standards (or whatever Florida decides to call ours), but we’ve been burned a few times before. We just keep changing the test in hopes that it will change the system.

It goes something like this: Politically motivated fake change. Panic. Fake changes to the fake change. More panic. Repeat. The only thing that really changes is the frustration level of students, teachers, and parents.

Until educrats push for something that feels like the beginning of significant and actual change (like, say, reduction of public school class sizes by at least half), I’m kind of done hearing about it. I’m kind of done getting invited to meetings to help sell me on the Next Big Thing in standardized testing so I can spread the good news to other terrified, big-eyed parents who would give their non-essential organs, and possibly a non-dominant limb, to ensure their kids don’t ruin their futures at 16 years old by getting a 3 on a standardized test that was created for all the wrong reasons.

Parents, it’s not a big deal. None of it. It’s just not. And frankly, the system, as it stands, does more harm than good for many children. So relax and get to know your kids a little better before you feel pressured into deciding that American public education is the key to success.

Get creative. You probably have more options than you think. You don’t have to feel scared into relying on politicians (and the experts they hire to help shape policy) to decide what makes sense for your kids. Like most of us, you were probably raised not to trust yourself about that. But be brave and trust yourself anyway.

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7 responses to “Out with the old, in with the old

  1. Okay, I know this may sound like insufferable boasting but… I actually think the public school education my children are getting is very good. Last year, my kindergartner learned about Clementine Hunter and painted in tribute to her, he tap danced (!) in class, and learned to sing happy birthday in Hawaiian. My 5th grader is now reading Charlotte’s Web in a “literature circle” with volunteers like me, and being encouraged to make videos of HOLES. Of course, there is always test nonsense but, as yet, the full apparatus of the bureaucracy has failed to descend–at least in Oregon. I don’t care a tittle or a jot about the DOOM implied in a 3. My goal is for my children to experience mind expansion.

    As always, you expand my mind with your posts. Love ’em.

  2. Carol Lenard says:

    Ha! Loved it. My feelings exactly.

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