Tag Archives: Common Core

Skills Based Curriculum

If we are ever going to shift away from an adult based, content heavy curriculum then what should we expect students to learn in schools? I am talking about a system where students are free to study according to their passions and interests. A system of projects designed by students and teachers together. A system that has no bells, no “classes.” The type of school where students drive all aspects of the learning.

I am going to argue that there is a core set of skills that all children should learn. I am also going to argue that this list is enough for all children to be successful. Implicit in this list is that all children are going to learn “how to learn” anything they choose to independently. By independently I do not mean in isolation, but without adult direction. That is each student should know how to research and connect with others who are experts to learn anything that they choose to.

It is a short list and probably each item deserves a separate post to describe what it is and isn’t. Here is my list of the skills that every student should learn:

Reading Students will learn to read all kinds of texts and genres as they are naturally exposed to them through classmates, parents, teachers, and exploring their passions through projects.

Writing Students will learn to write all kinds of texts and genres as they are naturally required to through their projects.

Speaking Students will learn to share their learning publicly developing important communication skills.

Computing Students will learn basic math computations as required by their exploration in projects. “Advanced” math will be learned in context when needed. All students will need an understanding of algebraic thinking and more emphasis should be spent on statistics.

Collaborating Students will learn the social skills of working together with others and how to take on different roles in different situations.

Problem Solving Students will learn to ask questions with depth. Emphasis will be on analyzing and evaluating results, rather than on the solutions.

Critical Thinking Students will learn to look at problems and situations from multiple viewpoints. Students will learn to identify and evaluate bias.

Empathy Students will learn to look at problems from multiple viewpoints and understand and relate to competing views.

This list represents everything that I think students should know how to do. It is absent of any specific “content” but applies to any subject that adults can make up. It is heavy on the 4C’s but intentionally omits creativity because I don’t believe that we need to teach or assess it. Adults just need to allow space and creativity will happen. It is innate in all humans.

What do you think? Anything missing? Unclear? Could this ever be the real national standards in the US or anywhere? Why not?

Don’t put words in my mouth!

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

I was contacted by an organization that promotes teacher advocacy. They wanted me to join them as they represent teachers across the country. They are very connected politically and have some some big money behind them. The pitch was that they would amplify my voice by getting more media exposure to my writings and get my message in front of state and national politicians.

I immediately loved the idea of this. I am passionate about helping make our education system better. I want to see a decrease in testing and standardization with a shift to personalized learning that is student centered. A grassroots organization that promotes teacher voice in the media and among politicians is definitely a need in the U.S.

But of course there was a catch. The “focus” for this year was promoting the Common Core. Ugh. Not a topic that I am a fan of. National curriculum is low on the list of things that I believe will “fix” schools. I really don’t believe “content” is the problem in schools, pedagogy is.

But what really rubbed me wrong is that this organization is branding itself as “teacher voice” but only if we support their agenda. This “grassroots” movement looks strangely like top down strategy that needs some teacher pawns at the bottom.

When you want to LISTEN to my opinions about how we can change education first, then maybe we can talk. I won’t have anyone putting words in my mouth. I have plenty to say by myself, thank you.

Common Core won’t double the dropout rate.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Traditional_hat_toss_celebration_at_graduation_from_United_States_Naval_Academy.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Traditional_hat_toss_celebration_at_graduation_from_United_States_Naval_Academy.jpg

Alexander Russo published a post “documenting” that the implementation of the Common Core will double the dropout rate from 15% to 30% according to the Carnegie Corporation. The argument is that higher standards will lead to more students failing and falling behind and eventually not graduating. This argument seems pretty simplistic to me and the claims rather exaggerated.

Credits are based much more on grading practices of individual teachers than the actual content being studied. Teachers will most likely adjust their expectations of what “mastery” of the standards is and how they grade. I suspect that the amount of students passing and failing classes will remain relatively stable to what it currently is.

I would argue that dropout rates are usually based on factors such as boredom, lack of success, lack of purpose in school, and outside of school pressures. So although I don’t believe that the Common Core will have much of a negative effect on graduation rates, I also don’t think that it will have a positive effect either.

If we want to improve graduation rates we need to move beyond WHAT is being taught to HOW it is being taught. We need to change pedagogy more than content. A shift to student centered learning with caring adults is the change that this nation needs rather than a top-down set of national standards and the ridiculous testing that comes with them.

#Stopcommoncore and me

I am having some cognitive dissonance when I watch Glen Beck

If you don’t want to watch it all Glen Beck has three problems with the Common Core

  1. Poor curriculum
  2. Loss of states’ rights
  3. Data mining

By the way the video is full of misrepresentations and I am not going to try and point them all out. I think he definitely misrepresents the curriculum of the CC and how it is “forced on homeschoolers.” I also have no problem with the alternate math methods he shows. But while I disagree with many of his points and feel that he is not pointing an accurate picture of the CC, I find myself equally against the CC but for these three reasons.

  1. Narrow curriculum
  2. Loss of district/school/community/students’ rights
  3. Conflict of interests of the powers behind it.

What I don’t like about any national curriculum is that it takes away the choice from teachers and students to study what they choose to study. I find it to be too sterile and prescriptive for what individual students need in their lives. I believe it is arrogant for anyone to determine here is what “every student needs to learn to be successful.” So really my first two items are the same complaint that education should be negotiated locally between the community and schools including room for individual student passions.

Strange Bedfellows http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/beyond-brics/files/2012/06/bedfellows.jpg

Strange Bedfellows http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/beyond-brics/files/2012/06/bedfellows.jpg

I know that the CC is not the same as standardized testing, but since the testing will be driven by the CC and all school funding based off from agreeing to this I believe that it is impossible to separate the two. Funding is the real power that the federal government is using to manipulate states into agreeing to CC and the testing that goes with it. The fact that there are testing companies all mixed up in this is a major problem for me. I actually agree with Glenn Beck about the involvement of the Gates Foundation and the danger of data mining.

So while I don’t agree with the rhetoric of the #stopcommoncore movement on how terrible the CC curriculum is (I don’t think it is perfect either), I do find myself agreeing with them that I think CC is a continued part of the federal government standardizing schools and hindering passionate, personalized learning. So does that make us allies?

PS: For more detailed deconstruction of problems of the CC check out Paul Bogush’s blog.