Monday, October 27, 2014

Kids React to Common Core: 'Mommy, Please Home-School Me'

Another day of school, another Common Core horror story. Parents in Royal Palm Beach, Florida complained to administrators that their children are languishing under Core-aligned instruction and standardized testing. One parent reported that her third-grade son comes home from school every day thinking he is stupid because he can't pass his tests. "Mommy, please home-school me," he begged, according to The Palm Beach Post.

Lest anyone assume the kid is the problem, keep in mind that some teachers don't even have access to textbooks that are aligned to the required tests, according to statements made by a teacher at the parents meeting last week. (Note: This is a common occurrence.)

The test themselves are wholly computerized, which presents a problem for the kindergartners required to take them:

Hours to prep for computerized testing of kindergartners:

 “I watched a student suffer for over an hour. They had no idea how to work the computer mouse.” 

Five teachers, working one-on-one with students got only 10 of 120 students done in one school day. “That night I went home and cried.”  – Chris White, teacher at a Title 1 elementary school

"Children don’t know the language – what’s ‘drag and drop’ to a child who’s not worked on a computer? . The books were designed to go with one test, we’re using another". – Karla Yurick, 5th grade math teacher

I can understand the desire to impose some amount of standardized testing on schoolchildren for the purposes of measuring teacher effectiveness. But there comes a point where the insanity of computerized exams for five-year-olds trumps any legitimate interest taxpayers may have in holding teachers accountable for their students' progress.

The best that can be said for Common Core is that it encourages home-schooling.


School Doesn't Have to Suck When You Teach Your Own Kids

J.D. Tuccille

One of the problems my son ran into when he still attended a brick-and-mortar school is the current mania for turning every damned arithmetic problem into the equivalent of a New York cabbie taking a rube tourist to Rockefeller Center via Staten Island. Why go the direct route when you can run up the meter?

There's widespread agreement in the U.S. that math is being taught badly, though experts disagree over whether it's Common Core's fault or whether the education establishment is blowing the teaching of math without assistance from the controversial new standards. Either way, it's easy to find recent examples of math problems seemingly designed to turn numbers into an incomprehensible mystery (see one delightful example pictured).

Jeff SevertJeff SevertFortunately, my son is now homeschooled—or, technically, attends a private online school. He uses online lessons and offline texts and workbooks to learn, coached by his mother and me. The lessons are means to an end; he takes them as needed, and can take as much or little time as necessary, until he demonstrates his mastery of a topic in a unit assessment test. Then he moves on. Find your vocabulary set a breeze? Then skip the review lessons. Stumped by long division? Then spend a few hours working it out.

And when the approach recommended by the book comes from education-establishment bizarro land, we can explain (not ask permission) in a conversation with his homeroom teacher (really, an advisor/contact at the school) that we won't be taking the scenic route across a mathematical Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Instead, my wife taught Anthony basic long division as she learned the subject. He has my mind for math which is, admittedly, missing a few circuits, so that was challenging enough. So she spread the lesson over two days. And she had him work at it repeatedly.

And he passed his unit assessment with 100 percent. Even better, he said he liked math. Last year he cried over his homework.

School doesn't have to suck, when the lessons are tailored for kids' learning style, and the pace matches their ability to absorb any given skill or bit of information. It's easiest to do that when you don't have somebody else's education philosophy of the moment forced on you.


UK: Bright pupils are held back by 'swot' taunts

Clever children are being held back at school and leading miserable lives due to ribbing from classmates for being ‘swots’ and ‘geeks’, a charity warned today.

Potential Plus UK, formerly the National Association for Gifted Children, urged schools to do more to tackle ‘unacceptable’ levels of bullying targeted at bright pupils.

Many talented youngsters are simply coasting at school or even causing trouble in an effort to fit in with their peers and avoid jibes such as ‘geek’, ‘clever clogs’, ‘teacher’s pet’ and ‘swot’ or ‘worse’, it was claimed.

Schools are urged to consider using mixed age classes and making greater use of computer-based lessons to avoid singling out children who can work at a faster pace.

The warning came in a new guide for parents and schools aimed at helping youngsters who are being bullied because they are ‘different’.

Other forms of bullying are dealt with in further titles in the Being Me series, launched today in conjunction with several charities.

In a guide tackling issues faced by gifted pupils, Potential Plus UK warns that the ‘level of bullying they experience is unacceptable’.

It cites leading physicist and Potential Plus ambassador, Professor Jeff Forshaw, of Manchester University, who warns: ‘It is easy to think that clever children are going to sail through school without facing many problems.

‘However, for some children and young people that couldn’t be further from the truth.  ‘Labelled as “geeks”, “clever clogs”, “teacher’s pet”, “swot” or worse, and being bullied on a daily basis can make the lives of these children with high learning potential absolutely miserable.’

In a section for teachers on catering for bright pupils, the guide states: ‘More than anything they want to fit in with their peers and to stop being singled out as the clever one or the geek or the oddball or the one who doesn’t make friends easily.

‘If left in this environment they will try to behave in a way to help them fit in – coasting or causing trouble, rather than excelling in what they are good at.  ‘The higher their IQ, the more difficult it can be for them.’

It adds: ‘All these children have to offer their friends, their school and their communities and this world can so easily go to waste and the child can be left feeling bullied and ostracised and lose confidence in their special talents.’

Many youngsters feel ‘frustration and anger’ due to their treatment by peers, which in turn upsets parents.

The guide urges schools to provide pastoral support to gifted pupils and consider ‘mixed age classes or the introduction of new technology in the classroom so children can work at a pace that suits them without being singled out for doing so’.

It also features anonymised diary entries from gifted children, including one from a boy who was told by his teacher not to put his hand up so much in class to prevent him being picked on.

Denise Yates, chief executive of Potential Plus UK, said: ‘I believe that “Being Me” could be the start of one of most important initiatives in schools to address this issue head on. Certainly for Potential Plus UK this publication shows that it is just not acceptable to bully a child because they are clever, with everything that goes with it.

‘If just one child is supported as a result of this work, just one more pupil understands the damage that this can cause or just one more teacher knows how to help prevent it, it will have been a great success.’


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