This is the first year my son's school is implementing Common Core Standards and recently I met with my son's middle school math teacher to discuss his progress in class and to find out how kids are adjusting to Common Core Math. All my reading to date regarding the Common Core left me concerned as a parent. While the notion of a common curriculum nationwide built upon critical thinking, problem solving, and applied learning sounds great, I was worried about the implementation of the standards at the student and school level.
As I spoke with Mr K. (Name changed to maintain privacy), who has strong credentials with degrees in engineering and computer science, I learnt that he spends over 3 hours before each class, identifying content and preparing for the class. He even solicits help from his family members and colleagues to proofread the content. In the absence of textbooks for Common Core Math, Mr K, and I am sure this applies to other Math teachers nationwide as well, has to now scour the web for content that relates to Common Core and then distill it into a form that can be shared with the students.
There are several reasons that have led to this situation. First, while the Common Core standards have been rolled out and schools are starting to adopt them, I am told that there are no textbooks available for Common Core Math.
The closest one is a Singapore Math based textbook that is being reviewed by a group of educators to decide on its applicability for Common Core. Second, content is not easily available on the web. There are a lot of Math websites but none that are geared toward Common Core. Third and not the least, new digital, adaptive testing methods that are a part of Common Core are being implemented that most students and teachers are not familiar with. While all this is happening, we are dealing with budget cuts, shortened school years, large classrooms, and high expectations from parents.
Prior to Common Core, teachers had access to textbooks that had been used in the school for years. Their primary focus was to deliver the content from the textbook and other resources in a fun and exciting manner. Now they have to create and curate the content, coach students on new forms of test taking, and deal with the all the technology options including Macbooks, Chromebooks, laptops, iPads, and Android Tablets and associated digital content.
Where does all this leave us? As long as we have dedicated teachers like Mr K. and supportive and patient parents, we should be able to get to a positive outcome from this experiment in Common Core. Do we have any other choice?
I would love to hear your thoughts on Common Core? How are you managing as teacher and a parent?