The Science of the Common Core: Experts Weigh in on its Developmental Appropriateness

Interesting article particularly because it is in a business magazine (Forbes) and not an education journal. It really gets to the heart of many of the issues I hear about from parents right here in Kingston regarding Common Core in the elementary grades.

But this is more than an issue of parental pique. Child development experts and early childhood educators believe that there is actually quite a lot to lose. The issue is not at all ideological, they say – it’s partly pedagogical, and partly psychological. According to experts, a poorly conceived set of standards has the potential to be, at best, fruitless and, at worst, detrimental to the youngest kids who are on the frontline of the Common Core. In the long run, the argument goes, it might be associated with a lot more cost than benefit.

The article discusses concerns with forcing young students to “drill and grill”, reduction of play-based learning, issues of comparing the U.S. to other countries when in reality other countries do not start the education of their students until later than the United States, brain development and more.

A discussion of whether standardized testing is really what is at fault (and possibly not the Common Core standards) is brought up briefly but the resolution seems to be that the standards and testing are tied together in such a way that they can not be separated.

“The argument that the Common Core Standards are somehow conflated with standardized testing is a wholly misleading rhetorical turn,” she [Mindy Kornhaber, a professor at Pennsylvania State University] says. “The Common Core standards are in fact supposed to be tested with the Common Core tests that are being produced by the testing consortia… A perceived threat to the Common Core reform (and I have this from a Common Core insider) is the willingness of a number of states to abandon those testing consortia tests.”

After addressing testing, the author moves to a second possible reason why Common Core isn’t working.  Some discussion from one of the writers of the standards Sue Pimentel about how the standards are being misinterpreted and the schools are really at fault for implementing the standards badly is presented.

Sue Pimentel, a lead writer of the ELA/literacy Standards, says that it’s important to remember that not only are schools free to choose their own curricula, but the Standards are actually designed only to be a portion of a child’s experience at school. “I have heard early childhood educators say, ‘they’re inappropriate as a whole.’ I have not heard anyone point to a specific standard and say, ‘this standard is developmentally inappropriate.’ For some, it is standards as a concept they seem opposed to. There’s also concern that the Standards don’t reach the whole child. Indeed the Standards were designed to define the literacy and math skills and concepts students need to learn, and were never intended to encompass all of what students need to study and learn. The Standards state that students require wide-ranging, rigorous academic preparation and, particularly in the early grades, attention to such matters as social, emotional, and physical development, and approaches to learning.

My immediate thought was that teachers don’t have enough time to do other things before I even got to reading NY Principal Carol Burris’s response to this charge.

“It’s the Standards, not the schools’ implementation of them. The first standard in Kindergarten Math, for example, is ‘count from 1 to 100.’ It’s unrealistic. An average 4 or 5 year old is able to count to 20. If that’s the average, this means that some can do more, some can do less. Some kids can count to 100. What’s really funny is that Massachusetts’ state standards, which were supposed to be the most rigorous in the country, only has them count to 20. So it’s unclear where this research is coming from.”

Burris does present specific standards that are inappropriate and she points out that it takes a really long time to teach kids things they are not yet ready to learn.  I like to try and give people the benefit of the doubt so perhaps the authors did not intend what eventually resulted when the standards were completed but we ended up with standards that are not developmentally appropriate.

The final points of the article address the potential long-term impact of forcing our youngest students to learn the three R’s too early.  The fear is that these students will learn to hate school, have emotional issues, give up on learning, that creativity will itself be stifled.  Unfortunately this sounds like exactly what I am already hearing from parents of elementary grade students!

“Who said that the finding that we’re behind in Math and Science is solved by throwing stuff at kids when they’re young?” asks Rosenfeld. “It’s so presumptuous… Homework assigned in lower grades is negatively correlated with success. This was all done with good intentions; but we know what the road to hell is paved with.”

Let them be little

One thought on “The Science of the Common Core: Experts Weigh in on its Developmental Appropriateness”

  1. As a mom of five children, 3rd grade, 7th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade and college junior at a SUNY university, I am deeply troubled by the changes in the curriculum my youngest fifth child in enduring. My three youngest children are on the bubble and will all be effected by common core dramatically. I am thankful that my two older children seem to be just above the impact line. How is it that administrators, board of education members and teachers can not look at a family like ours and see ? How unique it is to have children at four seperate levels and see the success of each child being determined and drastically diminished just because of standards changing, curriculum and textbooks being thrown out and black and white worksheets and scripts dictating the lives of teachers that I respect.

    I can not believe how teachers and staff seem to be being gagged and honestly it is as if their tongues have been cut out of their mouths because of fear to lose their jobs. These are the grown ups that have been hired to teach my children. The principals and administrators have been hired to protect my children from bullies and law/rule breakers. Board of education members who are supposed to be trustees of our children, staff and academic institutions who do not want to listen or hear what parents or community members are saying.

    The trenches of parenting young children are no longer friendly. Parents are not welcome into schools or classrooms as partners or educators and they are not even participants in homework or study guide preparation or test prep. To have FORBES writing articles on Common Core must mean there is a lot of money to be made or lost by investors in this failing implementation and country wide disaster. No child left behind was awful, Race to the Top is really a Race to Nowhere and this Common core standards are unrealistic and are setting children, teachers and the entire public education system up for failure.

    I hope that a dialogue among our community of over 300 + participants in this blog will start. Jolyn is dedicating substantial time and energy to provide us with data and talking points and we need to have a discussion that will help us to help our children. 15 percent of children are passing at Crosby elementary school in ELA or Math, 5 percent of children are passing at George Washington elementary and 25 percent are passing at both Miller and Bailey Middle Schools. These are awful statistics and we need to do something about them. Does anyone care?

    We just had parent teacher conferences if you were lucky. Did you get to see the state test scores? Did you get to see your student’s Star Reading or Math Scores? Are you happy with the creativity and problem solving our children are learning? I am sooooo bored by the first 6 weeks of school as well as my 4 children.

    Thank GOD for sports saturdays, music and art programs, athletic programs, marching band, chorus and drama programs. Children are saying SCHOOL IS BORING does that matter to anyone else? Where is the love of learning?

    If Kingston does not get involved, more will be shoved down our throats before we know it. Please speak out and advocate for ALL of our children in the DISTRICT. Make sure you cast your vote on Tuesday November 4, 2014. Who thought that education would be determined by politicians? What has the United States come to?

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