I had lots of fun last night helping my daughter study for a math test on multiplication. They were solving problems like 21x20 by saying 20x20=400 and 1X20=20 so 21x20=420. The algorithm we learned and that my other kids used seemed so much simpler. On the other hand, much as she hates them, I think the word problems she is doing are a good thing, miserable as it is to walk her through them.
I'm curious about how reading instruction will change under Common Core. My older kids went to public school and were taught reading via a whole language program. Both of them learned to read easily and well. I don't know how well either of them has ever "gotten" phonics, but my reading scores were always off the charts on the high side and I never got the whole point of phonics until I took a college class in teaching reading. As a kid I saw it as an auditory discrimination exercise, not a decoding exercise, since I could easily read every word put in front of me at school. My youngest (eight years younger than her sister) is in Catholic school and they use a more phonics-oriented approach. She does make more of an effort to sound out words. Is that because of the way she was taught or because her reading scores aren't off the chart like her sister's? Anyway, I tend to take a lot of these changes with a grain of salt. As an education major I know that reading research studies and basing instructional and/or curriculum decisions on that research isn't most teacher's and/or school system's strong point. One study that has stuck in my mind over all these years is one that showed that if the teacher believed the program worked, it usually did.
My guess is that Common Core has become a rallying cry and a symbol and that what the symbol stands for is far more important and controversial than the actual standards. Basically, it is the symbol of control of the schools moving from the parents to a far-away authority. Originally public schools were local and for better or for worse they reflected the wishes, values, morals and yes, religion of the local communities and, because most people in the local community had children or other relatives in the school, the schools reflected the wishes, values, morals and religion of the majority of people in the community. That meant segregated schools. That meant schools in the South read from the King James Bible daily and that the teacher would ask kids if they went to Sunday School that weekend. It meant that a small town in North Dakota didn't have a "public" school; the nuns in the local motherhouse ran the Catholic school and they let the odd Protestant child in town attend and not go to mass or religion class. It meant that teachers had to (at least publicly) follow moral standards that the local community espoused (even if the local community did not follow them). It meant that evolution was not taught in schools where most parents disagreed with it--and that it was taught where parents did favor it. Little by little, bit by bit, through court decisions and laws, control of the schools has moved away from the parents and to the state.
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