Monday, February 24, 2014

Uncommon Kids Need More than the Core

Principal Carol Burris is a local hero, frequently writing in Valerie Strauss blog. Most recently, she wrote about the incipient disaster that is the Common Core. They're raising the bar, making everything rigorous, and making sure my ESL students don't get out of high school until they're senior citizens. This is because what the world needs now is rigor, sweet rigor, according to great minds like David Coleman and Reformy John King.

If these scores were used last year, the New York four-year graduation rate would have dropped from 74 percent to 34 percent. But even that awful rate would not be evenly spread across student groups. A close look  demonstrates just how devastating the imposition of the Common Core scores would be for our minority, disadvantaged and ELL students, as well as our students with disabilities.

Because widespread failure is good for everyone. I mean, sure, kids don't like it, and parents don't like it, and teachers don't like it, but we can't focus on special interests. The important thing is to produce the tests, material to support the tests, and privatized empires like that of Eva Moskowitz so that folks of her ilk can continue to bring home the big bucks.

My attention was caught by another point. Over and over, we hear that we need to make kids "college ready," and evidently those of us educated before the magical Common Core are all a bunch of knuckle-draggers, unable to carry on a discussion about anything whatsoever. And yet, despite all the talk of tests, here's something we already knew:

A study by the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) looked at the college performance of eight cohorts of students from 33 colleges and universities...The findings were that student college success was better predicted by high school grades than by test scores.

Well waddya know? Our grades, often made up (gasp!) without even a rubric, are better predictors of how kids will do in college than standardized test scores designed by Common Core geniuses. It turns out that you and I, who see and feel the enthusiasm and competence of certain kids, might actually give them credit for it. And it's entirely possible that college professors may note practical intelligence and competence even if a student wrote C instead of D!

Because you know what? While David Coleman may believe no one gives a crap about how kids think of feel, many teachers do. And those of us who wish to elicit worthwhile discussion from kids had better give a crap too. Because who on God's green earth wants to talk to someone who doesn't give a crap how you think or feel? Who wants to analyze a train schedule? Who wants to spend a month analyzing the life out of a short story? Who wants to eat lunch with the likes of David Coleman?

Not me.

Empathy is a great quality. Understanding and getting along with others is a great quality too. They will help you get through school and to have a more productive life. I see kids who are good at this and I believe they will excel at whatever they choose to do. I give them higher grades for making my class a better place to be, and you'd better believe their employers, if they're smarter than David Coleman, will pay them better and fight to keep them.

Because we look at people, not just test scores. A student who scores a hundred on every assessment and never interacts with anyone is a student who needs better prep for college, and for life. We, as teachers, know many things David Coleman doesn't know. We, as teachers, have to help and guide those kids even if it won't help our value-added ratings.

That's why it behooves us to stand with our students, and with their parents, to fight this corporate outrage known as the Common Core. It doesn't just need to be slowed down. Like every other fruitless core, it needs to be tossed in the compost heap.
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