Written by: Randi Weiner
Educators and kids are in agreement that the speed at which the Common Core Standards have been implemented in New York have killed a lot of things. Interest. Patience. Time to ask questions. Field trips. The arts, in some cases. Confidence.
“I definitely think Common Core is starting to take away our identities and conflicting with our ideas,” said Anuk De Silva, 13, an eighth-grader at Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School. “Before, we used to have a lot of discussions, now we get packets and different worksheets without knowing our options.”
Common Core learning standards are just that, standards. They were designed from the top down — experts listed what a student needs to succeed in college and work and then figured what each grade would need to have completed all the way back to kindergarten to reach the proper standards by the time they are 18.
There have been a lot of glitches with the rollout of the Common Core standards, and parents and educators have certainly had their say on what’s wrong and right about them.
Last week, about 30 students had the chance to talk about what it’s like for them in this new world, courtesy of state Sen. Greg Ball. The Patterson-based Republican and the grassroots anti-Common Core Parents for a Common Cause sponsored an hourlong forum asking the students for their take on how they and their teachers were surviving this year’s changes.
“After we did the grownup forum, the biggest hit of the night were the kids. What better way (to make the point) than to ask the kids. They’re the ones who are living it,” said Denise Kness, one of the co-founders of Parents for a Common Cause.
The students, from grades three through nine, gathered at grade-specific tables to talk about school and answer a few questions.
Among the queries were: “What do you do when you don’t understand your homework? What have you enjoyed the most about school so far this year? What did you find the least interesting in school so far this year? When you learn something new, do you feel you have enough background knowledge? Do you feel you have enough time to understand it before the teacher moves on?”
Emma Anderson, 11, a sixth-grader at Copper Beech, said she has always paid a lot of attention to her teacher, but she felt a lot more pressure this year.
“They teach more quickly than they used to,” she said.
Erika Tobacco, 13, an eighth-grader, said her teachers have been very frank about why things have changed.
“The teachers have to go by … certain guidelines and can’t teach what they want to teach,” she said. “It could be a good thing in some (cases), but not in other ways. We don’t get to learn about some things that could be useful.”
Ball had a chance to sit with each group of children, ending each set of interviews with “What would you like me to do about it?”
“It was extremely interesting to hear directly from the mouths of those that are affected by this. I was extremely impressed by the depth of the conversations, the fact that these kids are not looking to skip out of homework; they genuinely want to be challenged,” Ball said.
“But they feel … rushed, stressed. They feel they’re being used as guinea pigs and that it’s going to affect their future,” he continued. “There’s an over-reliance on continuous testing. They want more creativity and more opportunity to read and learn and debate subjects they’re interested in.”
“After listening to the kids, it’s scary we’re going to a (program) that will suck the independence out of the process,” he said.
Lakeland schools Superintendent George Stone was one of about 30 adults who attended the event, listening to students and the occasional teacher talk about changes in the classroom.
“Adults can talk all they want,” he said. “It’s the students that are dealing with this on a day-to-day basis.” (ARTICLE)