New Jersey

A High School Teacher and Her Students Reflect on the Common Core

As lobbyists heighten their hostility towards standardized tests, the Common Core State Standards are also under attack. Examples:
  • Diane Ravitch, union evangelist, says that the state standards “bypass democracy" and, in a perfect illustration of the soft bigotry of low expectations, worries that “maybe they will cause the children who now struggle to give up altogether.”
  • Rick Santorum chants, “we need less common core and more common sense.”
  • At a debate yesterday sponsored by Fox News, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott insists that “the more we learn about common core, the more problematic it is.”
So let’s ask a teacher and her students. Tara Brancato, a teacher of arts and humanities at a Bronx high school and a “proud UFT leader at her school,” polled her graduating seniors about their learning experiences with the Common Core. Here’s what they had to say:
Do you see differences between school now, and school before the Common Core? “I hear the word scaffold a lot now. I feel like kids who understand stuff…get a lot less help. But now the kids who don’t get things as well, they get totally different worksheets and help sheets to do the same skills I’m doing.” “Personally, I’m always asking for help, and teachers still help me, so it’s not that different for me.” “In English class, she would stand over us in ninth grade and tell us every step of what to do. Now [our teacher] doesn’t really hold our hand as much; he lets us experience stuff.” “The amount of independence afforded to us is staggering.” “I don’t think the way we’re taught is that different. Teachers still teach kind of the same—they give the basic idea and then if students have questions, they help. Students more on the recluse side get called on a lot more now.”
Ravitch, Santorum, and Abbott should listen less to political lobbyists and more to teachers and schoolchildren.
Laura Waters writes about New Jersey education politics and policy for WHYY’s Newsworks and NJ Spotlight. An earlier version of this post appeared on her own blog, NJ Left Behind. She is a mother of four and has been a school board member in Lawrence Township, New Jersey, for 10 years.
Laura Waters
Laura Waters is the founder and managing editor of New Jersey Education Report, formerly a senior writer/editor with brightbeam. Laura writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for ...

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