Tonawanda News

March 29, 2014

WALLACE: State should rethink Common Core

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Common Core. It’s a term that has been thrown around a lot lately in the media and by politicians and educators. 

What is it and why do we care? Well, according to its website, “the Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.” 

The Common Core Standards were created through a collaborative effort on behalf of the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed by stakeholders in the field, including teachers, school administrators and content experts. The final standards were released in June 2010. They have been adopted by 45 states and three territories.

In the 2012-13 school year, the Common Core was implemented in New York state.

New York’s rollout of the Common Core has been widely criticized by parents and teachers, who say it was rushed and has caused angst among students.

I agree 100 percent.

I have an 8-year-old son in third grade and the homework he has come home with has boggled his father and I on several occasions and we are both college graduates. 

When my 13-year-old son first started kindergarten in the Ken-Ton School District it struck me that not only was it a full day, but that he had the same curriculum schedule as older students. The school day consisted of gym, computer, library, lunch in the cafeteria, music, art. All of which he switched classrooms to do. 

Not to date myself, but when I went to kindergarten in the 1970s, it was only a half day and included snack and a nap in those few short hours. We learned our colors, shapes and letters in kindergarten. We weren’t expected to already know them going in. 

My two sons learned those things in Pre-K which is more essential now than ever. It is no longer an option but virtually a requirement for success in kindergarten. When my sons entered kindergarten, they needed to already know how to write their first name, not to mention all their letters, colors and shapes. 

Skipping ahead to the present, my third-grader is bringing home reading assignments about Mao Zedong and doing proof drawings in math. When that math assignment came home, we had to look up what exactly they meant by proof drawings. And when I complained to his teacher, she agreed and said that proof drawings were something she did when she was in high school, not third grade. 

Are we pushing our children too fast, too hard? Darn right we are. I, for one, believe the Common Core is having the opposite effect on our children than was originally intended. I think it is stressing them out and making them dread school. My third-grader is able to solve math problems in his head. But has trouble “showing his work.” Now he is being penalized because of that even though he gets the right answer. The Common Core does not seem to allow for the fact that children are individuals and learn differently, sometimes at their own pace.

And the strict standards are making the teachers have to teach to testing and not just teach for learning. Everything is about the state tests. Every benchmark is about how it will or will not effect the state tests. Where is the joy of learning? Where is the idea of learning to better yourself and not to score a certain amount on a state test?

The backlash regarding the Common Core has been resounding but it seems like John King, the state education commissioner, is not listening. Several recent town hall style meetings were held with parents, students and teachers voicing their concerns about the Common Core with no real changes coming from the state education department.

The state education commissioner needs to realize that if a program is supposed to help students in theory but is hurting them in practice, then it is not doing its job and should be ended.

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at