The backlash to Common Core and the growing opt-out movement is not a mystery. I’m a parent. I get it. My instinct when I watch my 3-year-old struggle to build her Lego Barbeque Set—trying to make those little knobs fit into the back of another tiny piece—is to immediately intervene and push those suckers together. I squirm when she’s uncomfortable. My stomach hurts when she cries. As she climbs tenuously over playground equipment, I hold my breath. When I read the headlines “Engineer Can’t Solve Second Grade Common Core Math Problem,” or “PARCC Was the Most Stressful Test I Ever Took,” I’m sympathetic to the writers. I don’t agree with the opt-out movement, but I certainly understand it. Not being familiar with a problem-solving strategy or being exposed to something new and challenging is unsettling to say the least. However, I’ve learned that taking away all struggle and failure for my child would not serve her well in the long term. It would deprive her of the ability to develop resilience, problem-solving skills and the knowledge that she is capable of accomplishing tough tasks with perseverance and effort—and if she doesn’t, that’s okay. She’ll try again next time. It’s her efforts that matter, not the outcomes. Learning is a journey. Stanford researcher Carol Dweck is well known for her
research on the value of a “growth mindset,” or the belief that intelligence, talent and ability can be developed through hard work. Children with a growth mindset welcome struggle as a learning tool. Difficult content is not feared because failure is not a judgment on their innate abilities, but a tool. They understand that failure makes you better the next time. And they fully believe that they can get better the second, third and fourth time around. As a result, they develop into successful, resilient adults. Is Common Core meant to be more challenging for our kids? Absolutely. Are many students going to struggle on Common Core aligned-tests like PARCC? Yes. Unfortunately, our standards have not been high enough. Kids, parents and teachers will all face a learning curve. That needs to be okay (and I’m in agreement with not tying evaluations to Common Core-aligned testing until teachers have time to really dig into the new standards). Struggle is part of the process of growth. When we fail together, we grow together, and come out the other side, able to handle problems we never thought ourselves capable of. Don’t stop believing in our kids’ ability to grow. Resist the temptation to put together that Lego Barbecue Set for them. A little sweat on their brows will do them a world of good.
Katelyn Silva is the Chief Communications Officer at Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, a nonprofit dedicated to opening intentionally diverse public charter schools.
Katelyn Silva is mom to a third grader and an education writer in Providence, Rhode Island. She operates her own education writing consulting business. She was previously the chief communications officer at Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, a nonprofit dedicated to opening intentionally diverse public charter schools. Prior to that, she was the communications director at the University of Chicago ...