A recent article in The New York Times claims that our children and adolescents are under great stress because we, as a society, have given up on childhood. While economic, racial, and familial factors contribute to that stress, the education given to our children and adolescents every school day through the application of the Common Core Standards can be a major stress as well. That stress occurs because those standards were created without addressing the cognitive, psychological, and social development of children and adolescents.
We need to investigate how mandating standards that are not based on the needs of children and adolescents contributes to their stress.
1. Could it be that making kindergarten “the new first grade” is part of the problem?
2. Could it be that focusing on teaching kindergarteners skills to make them “college and career ready” instead of helping them to learn through play and by using their imagination is part of the problem?
3. Could it be that mastering 90 discrete skills in kindergarten instead of learning through active exploration and hands-on, play-based learning is part of the problem?
4. Could it be that, after long days at school plus Before-Care and After-Care, young children come home to tutors, hired to help them with reading, writing, and arithmetic skills that were formerly taught to children a year older, or come home to do homework to master skills for which they are not developmentally ready is part of the problem?
5. Could it be that living in the only nation in the world which limits the amount of literature read in school and replaces literature with informational texts could be part of the problem? Could it be that limiting the kind of reading which allows for a variety of interpretations and encourages playing with ideas is stifling for the minds of children and adolescents?
6. Could it be that not requiring children and adolescents to revise their writing in order to stimulate their thinking and, instead, instructing them to get their thinking right the first time could be part of the problem?
7. Could it be that telling adolescents, who are primarily interested in themselves and one another, that they can’t ever write in their own personal voice, can’t ever use the pronoun “I”, can’t ever tell their own story is part of the problem?
8. Could it be that telling adolescents, who are just becoming aware of the complexity of the world and human relationships, that they must always write essays about THE ONE TRUE answer and never write essays to explore a question they have is part of the problem?
9. Could be that never teaching children and adolescents how to form their own deep questions, how to stimulate their thinking by discussing ideas with others who think differently from them, how to use their imagination in order to innovate and problem solve, and how to tell the story of their engagement with an idea is part of the problem?
10. In summary, could it be that the Common Core Standards have simply gotten it wrong?
Of course, the Common Core Standards have gotten it wrong.
Those who know about teaching kids to be thoughtful readers and effective writers say the Common Core Standards are wrong: The National Council of Teachers of English, the professional organization of literacy educators K-college, did not endorse the Common Core Standards because NCTE stated that those standards are not developmentally appropriate, do not help students to grow as learners and thinkers, and do not prepare students for their future, explaining that the Common Core Standards could apply to the schools of 1950 but not to the realities of today.
Those who know about how little children learn say the Common Core Standards are wrong. More than 500 early childhood educators signed a joint statement opposing the Common Core Standards on the grounds that the standards are not developmentally appropriate and would lead to long hours of direct instruction, more standardized testing, and would crowd out important, active, play-based learning.
Those who know what students need to learn to have productive and meaningful lives in the 21st century say that the Common Core Standards are wrong. Children and adolescents need to be taught how to honor their own curiosity, how to collaborate with diverse thinkers in order to strengthen their own individual thinking, how to think deeply and broadly about the human condition, how to use their imagination to think up new ideas and create innovative approaches, and how to express their ideas effectively and uniquely in writing and orally. None of those skills are taught with the Common Core Standards.
The writers of the Common Core Standards were not educators and didn’t have in mind the developmental needs of children and adolescents. Their goal was to improve standardized test scores. Children and adolescents have been denied meaningful educational experiences that could have helped them to grow and as learners and thinkers in order to raise test scores, yet that has not happened. Scores on NAEP, called The Nation’s Report Card, have been flat over the years of the Common Core and still are flat almost a decade into the Common Core. The sacrifice of real learning has produced nothing.
It is time to put more life into our kids’ lives. It’s time to reduce the stress of kids having to fit into a mold which does not serve them and only produces stress in them. It’s time to engage kids in the exhilaration of learning. It’s time to help kids to be their best and happiest selves.
We know how to do that. Ask us. Ask educators.