I am a mother and a teacher. My children grew up before the Common Core state standards. Their teachers had standards to frame their instruction, which subsequently prepared them to take the Regents commencement exams – exams upon which New York had always commended itself.
Unfortunately, the standards those exams measured were not rigorous enough. When it came time to start paying for classes in college, two of my children had to spend their student loan money on remediation courses.
My third child was accepted into Albany University and, according to his high school transcripts, which measured his success with the 1996 standards, he was an exceptional student. Unfortunately, succeeding at these standards did not prepare him to easily meet university expectations. His Regents diplomas had not prepared him to think critically about college-level textbooks or literature. Because those standards did not push him to analyze, interpret and debate complex texts, he was overwhelmed at college.
All of my children have become successful, well-educated adults, but all had to overcome obstacles imposed on them by standards that left them unprepared for life. As a teacher, I do not want my students to feel that same frustration and shame. The governors, teachers and educational leaders who wrote the Common Core felt the same way, and decided to do something about it.
In 2010, when the new standards were adopted, I immediately studied them and began a self-tutorial. By the time State Education Commissioner John King Jr. asked all teachers for two Common Core aligned units, I had already rewritten my English, social studies and science units to incorporate the new standards. When the Education Department started providing aligned curriculum, I begged our district to adopt it. I had worked hard, but these units were even better than what I had done alone.
As far as New York’s implementation of the Common Core, I feel no student should have the experience my children did. This year’s seniors should be leaving our schools prepared to think. It has been a refreshing change to have leaders who are prepared to help all of our students to succeed now, not years from now.
I invite you to walk into my classroom, and the classrooms of hundreds of teachers who are teaching the Common Core. Here, teachers’ individual talents are fostering students to think deeply, and students are better off for it. Here, you will find students who are not being standardized. Just the opposite.
My students are examining literature, articles, memoirs, news feeds and documentaries. They are developing and defending their own opinions. They are using connections made between texts to understand how authors construct meaning and influence their audience. My students then become persuasive writers.
When my students go to college, they will not have to pay for courses that have no credit. Students will be ready to think critically and creatively for themselves. Whether they choose a trade school or college, these students will know how to investigate a controversy, understand biased writing and decide for themselves what they believe based on evaluation of multiple sources of evidence. They will be leaders who will listen to all of the stakeholders, not just the loudest. I want my voice to be heard.