Seeing a lot of talk about ‘Common Core’ curriculum. I wasn’t even sure exactly what that meant, but based on the name ‘common core’ it isn’t that hard to know what is meant. The mission statement on the ‘Common Core State Standards Initiative’ website reads:
The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
Hmmmm… Well, let me back up here a moment and tell you a little about our schooling decisions for the boys. We started home-schooling them from the beginning. They were never in a school setting, aside from co-ops and special events. The day to day learning was here at home and for the most part – self led. (Notice I didn’t say self taught)
When my oldest, Harrison, got to middle school, I enrolled him in an online charter school funded by the state. So, it’s a public school, just not brick and mortar. The next year we enrolled my youngest, Brinson, also. They have teachers, books, assignments, goals, etc but it leaves me out of the equation. I’m here only for help with homework type stuff. That and to make sure they don’t burn the house down. (Which I almost failed at that once or twice, but I digress…)
By the end of the 7th grade, it was obvious this setting was not optimal for Harrison and he is now enrolled in a full time co-op. In other words, he goes to school every day, but he’s still considered ‘home schooled’. It’s just not by me and he’s doing great.
Brinson is still at the online charter school. Because it’s publicly funded, he must adhere to all the tests and such that the kids in the brick and mortar schools must. Most of the time, it’s no biggie. It’s more a nuisance than anything really. When the spring comes around and the standardized tests (called CRCTs here) have to be taken, I take them and tell them to do their best.
There’s also a writing test that must be taken every three years. They’re in the 5th, 8th and either 11th or it’s part of the test that must be passed in order to graduate.
Both the CRCTs and the Writing Tests (if applicable) must be passed in order to be promoted to the next grade. This wasn’t the case when I was a kid. For one, there was no writing tests at all. Only the standardized tests. They were given every 3 years and it was only to see where you were at and how you were doing. It was never a reason to hold or promote. (I used to answer the first few questions and then make pictures out of the bubbles when I got bored. I was always at or above average – if that tells you anything about the accuracy of these tests. The only thing I was above average at was accidentally bubbling the right answer…)
The thing is, my kids have IEPs because they struggle with writing. They’re eloquent speakers and have no problems expressing themselves, but ask them to put it on paper and it just doesn’t happen. I didn’t know until just last week, but because of the IEPs, it doesn’t matter if they pass or fail the CRCTs or the writing test. Their promotion or retention is based solely on the goals on their IEPs.
I am ever so thankful for this. Kids aren’t made with cookie cutters. They’re not all going to do well on a cookie cutter test. How do people not get that?
So a couple weeks ago, Brinson’s online teacher set up a ‘mock’ writing test to prepare the students for the writing test this Wednesday. I was told not to help them or anything. So – I didn’t. Until after an hour into it my son was sobbing uncontrollably. He was upset, scared he was going to fail and generally anxious. He was hyperventilating at one point.
Well, that’s not cool with this mama.
I talked to an attorney and then the school and told them that I was not making my child take the writing test when 1, he struggles with it the way he does and 2, he has such a violent physical reaction. And then I told them that if they tried to hold my son back… Well, they won’t like it when I’m angry, but angry because you’re messin’ with my kid? Nuh-uh.
I got a return message from the Assistant Principle that said:
Ms. ******* forwarded me your webmail about the concerns you have with the writing test. I met with our Director of Special Education to discuss Brinson’s testing accommodations and wanted to let you know that when he takes the writing test, it will be with the following supports:
1. Extended Time
2. Frequent monitored breaks
3. Small group
4. Repeat and explain directions.
You are encouraged to use these accommodations at home during the mock practice testing sessions. These are put into place to help him become more successful and not experience such distress.
All fifth graders are required to attend the fifth grade writing test in order to move to the next grade level. They are not required to pass the test, just attend.
Okay, so did I correctly read that last paragraph? ‘They are not required to pass the test, just attend’… So they don’t even have to take the test – they just have to show up *to* take the test. Clearly that must be a typo…
I wrote the AP back and said that I’d bring him to the test, have him fill out the name card and then he’d be instructed to not write anything on the test. I told him he could draw or doodle.
I thought she’d reply and correct the word ‘attend’ to the word ‘take’. She didn’t.
I later spoke to Brinson’s teacher about it and told her the same. That I told Brinson he didn’t have to take the test. He could just doodle. She said that was fine.
Okay, I’m really confused. What is the point of having a kid take a test that they don’t have to take? This makes no sense to me. It all has to do with funding. In order for the school to stay a school they have to have 95% participation on the test. The teacher actually said – and I quote “All we need is his body in a seat.”
His teacher, I love her, agrees with me at how ludicrous it all is. She hates it too. “Do you know how much I would love to come to school and teach the students about things in nature, history, and such? I can’t. I have to spend my time teaching them how to fill in correct bubbles…” That must be so frustrating.
How does this help anyone? It’s all about the politics and it’s not at all about actually TEACHING the child something other than how to spout back out what the test wants to hear.
If you’ve never heard of or seen the movie “Waiting for Superman”, I highly recommend it. The trailer can be seen below.
I’d love to hear from you on this subject. What have you and your family had to deal with when it came to ‘common core’? Or any nonsensical thing with public schools…?