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Common Core from a High School Geometry Teacher's Prospective
By Kristina Ribali on May 28, 2013
FreedomWorks is currently working with parents, teachers and activists across the country to educate citizens on the dangers of Common Core, as well as give them the tools to stop Common Core in their state.
I have attempted to write on the subject several times and reached out to my sister, a high school geometry teacher for assistance. Following is her first hand knowledge of the curriculum and her insight as to why these national standards must be stopped. She’s not a political activist or a party hack, she’s a teacher who dedicates herself tirelessly to the needs of her students and to her craft. Thank you Angie for your input into this important topic of Common Core.
From Angie Duncker:
I have never been a size 6. What I am is a professional high school mathematics teacher who happens to also enjoy her local cajun cuisine; a cuisine known for its rich sauces and deep fried goodness. This may be partially why I’m not a size 6, but I digress... Like size, or food, one size or one flavor doesn’t suit all, so, when the State of Louisiana decided to adopt the “one-size fits all” approach to a national curriculum I was horrified. Common Core State Standards for Education proclaims it will fit the needs of every body, of every student, in every community, in every classroom, making them college and career ready upon graduation. Never has a bigger lie been told.
In my school district and in my graduate studies I have had the opportunity to not only review these standards that are being forced down the throats of professional educators, but I have also had the esteemed punishment of trying to develop a curriculum plan for my specialty; High School Geometry. This curriculum must encompass the new standards and make them educationally and developmentally appropriate and relevant to my students. By these standards, this is a task which I have likened to standing on the edge of the Red Sea and expecting it to part while God snickers in the background. We, as educators, are not given the tools necessary to perform this act. The first tool being critical thinking students. Students are not and will not be prepared over night for this sudden acceleration into college level critical thinking because we, as educators, have not been allowed to develop them.
From a student’s perspective, Common Core curriculum is a complete injustice to everything they have been taught to do from the first day of Kindergarten. Students are being asked to master skills and thought processes which are not only age inappropriate, but developmentally inappropriate for cognitive development of critical thinking skills. Here are just a few examples.
The following three standards are from the Common Core State Standards High School Geometry prescribed for a 10th grader:
CCSS.Math.Content.HSG-GPE.A.1 Derive the equation of a circle of given center and radius using the Pythagorean Theorem; complete the square to find the center and radius of a circle given by an equation.
CCSS.Math.Content.HSG-GPE.A.2 Derive the equation of a parabola given a focus and directrix.
CCSS.Math.Content.HSG-GPE.A.3 (+) Derive the equations of ellipses and hyperbolas given the foci, using the fact that the sum or difference of distances from the foci is constant.
These standards require a student to derive the equations for sections of a cone. They are not asked to memorize and then apply, but to simply (sarcasm) create with equations based upon algebraic skills that are currently taught in the junior and senior level math courses. Tenth grade students in the 2013-2014 school year will be held accountable for skills they will not be exposed to until 1-2 years beyond their current learning. Yes, you read that right, they’ll be tested on knowledge they have not yet learned.
There is nothing more disenfranchising to a student than to have a test question on a subject that was never covered in class, let alone a complete curriculum setting you up for failure. As the teachers of these children, how are we to present them with the current subject matter, plus back teach all the skills and understanding required for successful completion of the curriculum? A question no one is capable of answering.
Any educator in a state school will tell you the curriculum, lessons, and assessments are dictated by the state and local school districts. Then they'll assess the educator’s cumulative professional acuity by the results of one aggregate exam taken in a single testing session for one complete semester’s worth of work. The current state of education, as a whole, forces an educator to teach to a test.
Teachers must test for baseline data, test for differentiation, test for learning styles, test for lesson effectiveness, test for unit understanding, and then test for subject matter competency. These are just the tests required for the data accumulation of the bodies governing our schools, not the normal, “It’s Friday and you’re taking your test over what we learned this week” test. With all this testing going on, when is a student actually expected to learn to think for themselves? When is a student afforded the time to hypothesize a solution and synthesize their conclusion with the evidence? When is a student afforded the time and variability to question and adapt their understanding of a subject to make it relevant to the problem at hand, or for that matter relevant to real life? These are skills that allow a student to develop into a critical thinker, into a college and career ready individual, and our educational system has methodically stripped that away. Knowledge and thinking is no longer valued as much as a student’s ability to color in the appropriate dot.
Empowering teachers to teach to the needs and abilities of their students, instead of to a test would be a huge step in the right direction. Common Core does exactly the opposite. I oppose it and if you want students to learn how to think instead of what to think, you should oppose it too.