Common Core does not address the nation’s real problem, poverty (rough draft)

Common Core does not address the nation’s real problem,
poverty
Let me ask you a couple questions.
Will common core fix hungry children’s stomachs?
Will common core change apathetic parent’s minds?
Will common core make some neighborhoods safer, bring economic
opportunity to parents worried about putting food on the table or give kids the
basic supplies they need to be successful?
The answer to all those questions is no. The problem we have
in education is not dumbed down or mediocre standards as common core supporters
would have the public beleive, it is our dogged denial of poverty and poverty
friends is the number one measurable factor in education. Students who live in
poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t. Common core does absolutely
nothing to address poverty and until we address poverty we can have one miracle
fix after another and we will find ourselves right back where we are.  
Over a fifth of our children live in poverty and another
fifth just above it and the problem is getting worse not better. It is beyond
the pale to think a deeper dive into fewer topics is going to change that.
Instead we must put into place things that will mitigate poverty.
We need legitimate after school and summer school opportunities’’,
often two of the first things cut during lean budget times.  Kids who live in poverty often need more time
to learn material and less time in between school years so they don’t lose what
they have leaned. Furthermore we must strive to make these times fun for kids.
One of the solutions in my district is to give kids an extra hour of school.
Well friends many of the kids forced to stay after think it’s a punishment.  What have I done wrong, they ask their
teachers.
Kids in our poorest schools need smaller classes so they get
more individualized instruction and our best teachers to provide it. Instead
people like Jeb Bush who sent his kids to exclusive prep schools that tout
smaller class sizes say we should give our better teachers even more students.  The problem with this is twofold, first no
teacher ever said give me more kids  and
that will make me a better teacher and quite often we make working conditions
so intolerable at our schools with the most poverty it is hard to get our best
teachers to go there, not that we are trying to do so anyways. Instead many
districts are doing the exact opposite of best practices and staffing the
classes with Teach for America hobbyists who think, I will give that a try.
This assures our neediest kids will have an ever revolving door of novices who
often don’t know what they don’t know and don’t stay around long enough to
learn it.    
Furthermore why would teachers want to work at those schools
knowing their pay and future employment will determined by how their students
do on standardized tests, that and the fact they are often micromanaged by
administrators more interested in artifacts than instruction. We could and
should have our best teachers work with our most challenging students unfortunately
we put in place obstacles to them doing so.
If we offered autonomy, smaller classes, behavioral support,
job security and adequate supplies to those districts identified being the best
we could get teachers to go to those schools. Unfortunately those things cost
money. Common core costs money too but that money unlike the ideas above is
money siphoned out of the classroom and to the bank accounts of testing
companies who are the ones both selling and trying to profit off of it.
Then we need to slow down on the reliance on standardized
tests which are doing a job they were never designed to do. Standardized tests
have sucked the joy of both learning and teaching out of education for many students
and teachers; furthermore they have become punitive and do little to help students
improve.  Starting in the third grade why
don’t we give a test the first week of school to see what kids don’t know and the
same test the last week of school to see if they got what they needed. Florida’s
FCAT perhaps the most famous of high stakes standardized  tests does nothing to help teachers know what
kids don’t and by the time the results come out it doesn’t aid teachers in
knowing what to teach either.
Then we have to slow done on the remedial classes which have
taken the place of electives, i.e. those classes which make school enjoyable to
so many. We make school such drudgery for kids and then we wonder why they don’t
do well. I have learned in my 13 years of teaching that if we put kids in
situations where they will likely succeed, then they often will but that’s not
what most education reforms do.
We can’t just stop with classroom and school fixes either.  We must also start addressing the entire
child. The school reformers like to blame public education but the truth is, why
a kid acts up or does poorly in school often has nothing to do with school. We
need social workers, mental health counselors and nutrition programs that
extend beyond the time our children are in school.
I am against Common Core but it has practically nothing to
do with the standards and just because I am against common core it doesn’t mean
I don’t care if my students do well in life or not. I am against then because
they are an endorsement of the current system of over testing, we lack the infrastructure/computer
resources to do it correctly, many teachers feel as if we are not ready, it siphons
money out of schools and classrooms and it does nothing to address poverty.   Proponents
make it all about them wanting to better prepare children against people that
support dumbed down and mediocre standards who don’t care about children and
they refuse to address legitimate concerns about a whole host of issues.   
Then I would also like to point out that the big supporters
of common core are also charter school, voucher and merit pay fans. None of
which has evidence saying they work better or at all. How can they be so
consistently wrong and expect the public to give them another chance? My grandmother
would call that chutzpah.
Jeb Bush while criticizing those against common core asked
for solutions. Well above are a few I believe would have a much greater impact
than common core but I also have one more. And that’s for Jeb Bush, who never
taught a class in his life and who wants to send public school kids to very
different schools than he sent his children to, to get out of education. He is
doing infinitely more harm than good.    
People have to decide if we want our limited resources to go
to schools and classrooms or if we want them to go to testing and software
companies.  People have to decide if they
want to address the real problems facing our schools or if they want another
miracle fix, an untested, expensive miracle fix at that.
We can debate all day long if a deep dive into fewer
standards is better than a hodge podge of standards that get lightly covered.  But what we should stop debating is the
number one cause for poor performance in school and that is without a doubt is poverty.
Until we address poverty and put in place things that mitigate poverty all we
are doing is spiting in the wind and putting both teachers and students in impossible
situations where failure not success is likely.

Chris Guerrieri                                                                                                                                              School Teacher

3 Replies to “Common Core does not address the nation’s real problem, poverty (rough draft)”

  1. Working with children in all age ranges throughout poverty stricken areas in Louisville, KY and now Jacksonville for two years in all levels of math I have seen two reoccurring themes. Number one are the kids in Algebra classes without an excellent grasp on the fundamentals. Some cannot multiply or divide by hand Some even have trouble with negative addition and simple subtraction. Number two. The children who are unable to to find after school reinforcement for learning math quickly start falling behind at the level where reinforcement is no longer available. There are of course many circumstances for individuals but for children who are otherwise dedicated students I feel that the two themes above would lead to drastic improvements if addressed with immediate actions and funding.

    James
    Beaches Habitat for Humanity, Education Volunteer,
    Jacksonville, FL

    Masters of Engineering
    University of Louisville

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