Today, my intention is to write my lesson plans for the upcoming week. This will be our last week before my third grade class takes the state reading exam, a test that in my state can determine the students’ grade-level placement. Therefore, this is my last week to help the kiddos out. I want to get it right. But do you know what I did this morning? I watched HSLDA’s documentary Building the Machine, a 40-minute video available for free.
I was incensed. I’ve known forever that national standards (or, worse, a national curriculum) would be devastating to this country and everything we stand for. These standards take away each state’s constitutional right to direct education as their citizens see fit. I’ve also known that the Common Core standards were written and approved with virtually no input or approval from educators, educational researchers, parents, and state legislatures. I did not know, however, that this entire movement has been funded by big businesses and special interest groups, specifically the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These standards aren’t for students. These standards are a tool for the government and corporations to build a money-making, power-hogging machine.
But I have work to do. It needs to be done today so I can be ready for next week. Just as I’m opening my laptop to begin sorting my documents I see this internet page I left open. I begin reading. It’s what took me to the documentary in the first place. It then points me to a PDF file of facts compiled by Sandra Stotsky, a woman who helped create the CCSS and refused to approve them. Download the file. Read them. Read all the way down to #15 and read the flaws that are included, and approved, in the CCSS. This is what 45 states have signed their students up for? No wonder so many states are now scrambling to get out of their agreements. (I’ll give you two sources this time – here and here.)
States, including my own, are fighting back, but it seems too late. The federal government has shoved its way into local education using lies and bribery. How am I supposed to teach 23 students knowing that I am a part of the problem?
I am one of the inexperienced educators who said, “Yeah, maybe the CCSS aren’t perfect, but they’re better than what we’ve got. It’s time for a change!”
Do you know what I got for my naïveté and impertinence? I got developmentally inappropriate standards. I got promises for more tests, more regulations, and more programs that my district would be incapable of properly funding. I got third graders who are terrified of coming to school next week.
Everything I learned in college about educational research, theory, and practice has been thrown out the window because of this bit of legislation. Jean Piaget’s extensive research on children’s cognitive development was a massive breakthrough for education. He described a child’s transition from operational and concrete thinking to abstract thinking. Do you know what third graders are naturally incapable of doing? Thinking abstractly. Do you know what CCSS is forcing on third graders? Abstract thinking. Guess what happens when kids can’t communicate abstract reasoning in a CCSS environment? They fail, all of them. Students progressing at a developmentally acceptable rate are being identified as “slow learners” because of developmentally inappropriate standards. This can’t possibly help us “compete” on a national level! And that is the biggest lie of the Common Core State Standards. Watch this video of child psychologist Dr. Megan Koschnick describing exactly what I mean. Then, if you’d like a few more examples of relevant and significant educational research, check out these names: Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, and Benjamin Bloom just to name a few. The research of these three gentlemen and J. Piaget have stood the test of time. Vygotsky and Bruner both disagreed with Piaget, but nobody has been able to say that any of them are wrong. Children’s learning and cognitive abilities progress over time from a self-centered/concrete worldview to an empathic/abstract understanding. One thing they all agreed about: Nothing can force a child to move from one stage to another or to grasp a concept that the child is developmentally incapable of understanding. Vygotsky, Bruner, and Bloom each described ways of assisting children through their cognitive development (Vygotsky – Zone of Proximal Development or scaffolding; Bruner – spiral curriculum; Bloom – Taxonomy of Learning Domains), but they insisted that the child had to set the pace. The CCSS’s “high standards” are completely irrelevant in the face of a child’s cognitive abilities and development.
So, this is me. A teacher struggling through her first year but still seeking every possible success. I cherish my students. I love it when they love learning. I hate that I have to tell them to do something they shouldn’t have to do and then watch them fail. That makes me furious. I feel like overturning some tables the way Jesus did in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17 & John 2:13-22). I know I have some letter writing to do. Who else will be passionately demanding a change?