As an English teacher in Oklahoma, I have been under the failed No Child Left Behind rules for some time now. Recently, NCLB was “forgiven” for my state by the president. I guess this means that we are not to be held accountable by the federal government if a student is truly “left behind.” The truth is, NCLB has done more to damage education (at least in English classes) than any other educational policy handed down by politicians who have some dreamy idea of the way classrooms work. I wish they’d come teach my class once in a while so they could see the truth.
In 2014, we will be implementing “Common Core Standards” in our schools which will replace the Oklahoma PASS guidelines which are in alignment with NCLB. The CCS are a set of standards in education that teachers must follow in order to pass the new state tests coming down the pike. I have been looking at the standards for English 11 and I have made some interesting observations:
1. Focus on Writing – Common Core is designed to teach students to write as analytical thinkers, moving away from question and answer type structures to expressing ideas through writing. I do this in my classes on a daily basis. Most of my assignments are writing assignments where students have to respond to a prompt about what they are reading.
2. Focus on Analytical Thought – Students are going to be required to think for themselves and stop relying on the teacher to give them all the answers. NCLB forced us to teach to a test where Common Core seems to be structured to teach students the skill of analysis and formulating an argument. In the long run this is designed to make students better thinkers and not just a knowledge bank of information that is usually unrelated.
3. Understanding of the Information Age – Students will not be required to know so much about facts because facts are so easily accessed through the internet, social media and their phones. It is designed to integrate with the digital world in such a way that teaches students how to properly access information and how to find facts to use in support of logical arguments.
I have discovered that about 90% of the guidelines for Common Core have been standard in my classroom for years. The other 10% is focused on teaching and encouraging students to blog, to write digitally and to share their work with others on the internet. I guess they will have to remove some of the blocks on school internet services after these standards go into effect.
All in all, I kind of like the new standards. We are moving students away from being fact spewing automotons to reasoning, logical and analytical thinkers. It should be interesting to see where this will go, and possibly our society will be better for it.