Melissa Rosman, Editor-in-Chief
In the last three weeks, I averaged four hours of sleep per night and six cups of coffee per day in order to produce 100 typed pages — my first ever unit plan. I combined the knowledge of both of my majors into a compilation of every strategy, theory and pedagogical point I have been taught in four years of higher education, and chances are, I won’t be able to use it.
We are the guinea pig generation. For four years we have been taught tactics we will never be able to implement into our classrooms because of the new companies, like Pearson, monopolizing education in America. The thirst, drive and passion we possess for education has been robbed and replaced by scripts. Common Core aligned modules are being thrown at teachers with years of experience and at new teachers who haven’t even been given a chance to explore their creativity and talent as teachers. These modules will single-handedly destroy the art of teaching. Teachers must read, memorize and understand hundreds of pages, leaving very little wiggle room for creativity and real student engagement. The modules are also making the level of instruction more advanced for each grade.
Juniors in high school are being taught material I learned in my most difficult college literature class. Fiction is being ripped off of shelves and being replaced with inaugural addresses and speeches, along with lengthy and boring non-fictional materials—exactly what our students are yearning for! They are no longer able to connect to characters in fiction, which gave them the opportunity to relate through the power of story telling. Students are being bullied, committing suicide and instead of teaching “Thirteen Reason’s Why” by Jay Asher or “Luna” by Julie Anne Peters, we will be teaching them “APEC Women and the Economy Summit,” a speech by Hillary Clinton. Although I can agree, non-fiction should be taught more frequently, there is no need to only read a section of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker (as suggested at the 2012 NYSEC conference.) Teachers should be able to focus an entire unit around a fictional text with short supplementary non-fictions to compliment it.
The new standards aren’t even the real problem. The Common Core standards are fairly well written despite public criticism, and require measurable objectives, which makes sense. The problem is the way that officials expect these standards to be integrated into our classrooms and the standardized tests that come along with them. The new set of tests being used in schools are rigorous, stressful and unnecessary, leading more and more parents to opt their children out. When parents opt their children out of tests, they are showing their disapproval of the excessive standardized tests being thrust upon students.
Parents have the right to opt out of in-state or district mandated testing, and this does not have any affect on the child’s education. Hopefully with the support of local and national organizations, and the support of the communities, enough students will opt out and the state will begin to get the hint. Students are missing out on authentic, hands on learning that they could be receiving because of the assessments and modules. Teacher candidates are about to enter a world of business-driven education and we are the ones who can change this. We can make a difference, reclaim our passion and change the direction of education.
Standardized testing is the only way to get a true grasp on a pupils knowledge. Enough with all the feel good bull crap. The youth of the United States is ruined, our generation will be known as a disappointment because we would all rather feel good about ourselves rather than face the facts. We are a generation of sheep, willing to follow any orders given to us. The job of educators should not be encourage fiction, rather to get students to develop work ethic. 100 pages over 3 weeks sounds like child’s play if you ask me. Stop complaining, if you really wanted to make a difference you wouldn’t have put Cuomo and Obama in office, they pose the biggest threat to our youth.
I am currently student teaching, and I can say that standardized testing is not the only way to get a true grasp of knowledge. Yes, I agree that there should be a way to assess students’ learning, but standardized testing is not the only way. The problem with standardized testing is that it does not take into account the personal factors of students. They don’t take into account that a student could have a learning disability, or that students come from all different walks of life. Students growing up in an heavily urban area will have different backgrounds and contexts than students in a very rural area do, and standardized tests don’t take that into account. What often happens is that teachers feel a need to “teach to the test.” In honesty, I don’t have a great answer about how to measure student achievement in a way that is fair to all students, but I will stand on saying that standardized testing is not the only way.
Also, having a set a standards that you want to students to meet can be a good thing in helping to guide teachers in what content to teach. But I think that the Common Core State Standards ask a lot from students that I don’t think is necessarily age/grade level appropriate. I have been in the field, and some of the math I was surprised at the some of the math I was teaching first graders.
I do have a problem with the scripted modules. I have heard from teachers who are using them that they do not like them. They are so scripted and leave little room for teachers to be creative.
To Ruined Youth, I don’t say this in a mean way, but please, unless you are a teacher and have been in a classroom, don’t call “100 pages over 3 weeks” child play. If you haven’t had to come up with lesson plans that engage students, think of supports for struggling students and deal with behaviors, then you don’t really know what we as teachers face. I do agree with you that students do need to develop work ethic, but there are many obstacles that teachers face in doing that. Believe me, we want students to have a work ethic. Also, I didn’t put Cuomo or Obama into office.
Slow down there bucko. Doesn’t really sound like you have any foundational knowledge of educational pedagogy, theory, or history to base your opinions off of. And by the way, take a gander at the top of her article and you will see that this was posted in the OPINION section. And in case that obvious fact eluded you, an opinion is the author’s right to possess. Sure, disagree all you want, but an attempt to belittle or bash an her work as a student is the act of a coward. As a recent graduate of SUCO and practicing teacher, I am going to have to side with the author here. Take some classes, spend some time in a school, and become a smart consumer of information instead of rely on predetermined right-wing political views and maybe you will be able to see the validity of a well written OPINION article.
The problem with standardized testing is that it takes away from the art of teaching that a teacher wants to develop. As a teacher grows as a teacher then can develop their own patterns and ways of instructing the students, standardized teaching limits the amount a teacher can actually teach because they are given a mandated module that practically tells them what to teach. It makes the teacher more of a middle man to the state and the students as to what they are required to make the students remember to the “big test.” The only classes I took in high where I found the teacher adapting to the students the most were classes that didn’t have a standard state test, the teachers conducting and taught what they knew and believed in that subject, no what was told of them to teach.
high school*, Not* what was told of them to teach
Standardized testing is the only way to measure student competence? Really? That is the kind of small-minded ignorance that is hurtling our educational system into the dust. This is a thoughtful and thorough look at the Common Core through the eyes of a young teacher who is obviously caring and thoughtful, and is seeing the damage right on the ground. However I have to disagree with one point. I don’t think the Common Core standards are well written or even sane. We need smaller classes, we need more focus on the basics (such as reading teachers at all levels); we need to fund education like we mean it– and we need to trust our teachers. The “feel good” generation starts at home. It doesn’t start in the classroom, and in fact most teachers I know work very hard to instill a strong work ethic in their students. And I am saying all this as a parent of a child in public school, NOT as a teacher within the system. I think if I had to teach this nonsense, I’d walk.
Ruined youth, I’m going to go ahead and take it you’re not an adolescent education major, because your naivety to our profession is apparent in this comment. I would love to agree with you that standardized testing is helping our students, because we’re forced to give so much, however, I have to tastefully disagree. Standardized testing does not measure the intelligence of a student, it measures their test taking ability, which let’s be honest, is not much useful in the real world. Standardized tests stress students out for no reason. They’re unnecessary. Second, like I said before clearly you aren’t an education major because a 100 page unit plan which you called “child’s play” incorporates pedagogical theory, creativity, content and measurable objectives. If any of that seems like “child’s play” I would love to read a unit that you have written, please, enlighten us. Third, this “feel good” teaching, is called compassion. It’s called empathy for students as human beings. Teaching is empathy. It is preparing students to be active members of society and I’m sorry but I cannot agree that a standardized test can do this.
To Ruined Youth,
If you think 100 pages is “child’s play,” you obviously don’t have a life, and for that I feel sorry for you.
This was an excellent article, and hit everything right on the head!
As I am in student teaching right now, I agree with the article. I also believe that there should be more teachers in a classroom to better accommodate for all that we are sadly mandated to do in our classrooms. Many people are unsuccessful in getting a job as a teacher, yet we should be using all the resources we can to help our students by providing these people with jobs!
I’m sitting in my classroom after having read your article (and the accompanying comments) and I feel compelled to encourage you to not give up! I was thoroughly entertained by your article, but, to be honest, in my opinion, you don’t have to worry so much about the modules, Pearson, the Common Core, and all that jazz. There are ways to be creative as well as to get students thinking about the big issues. There are ways to couple nonfiction and fiction (as you mentioned). There are ways to use Pearson and the CCLS and adapt them to make them work for you; at least that’s what I’m doing right now and I’m finding it fairly manageable.
I landed my first teaching job 2 1/2 months ago at a local school. I graduated from SUNY Oneonta in spring 2012 and got this job teaching 10th, 11th, and 12th grade English. My administration told me that we were going to be working with a new Pearson reading series, which I was in no position not to accept. OK – so I’d be teaching from a book. I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is what I found: the cool thing about Pearson is that it is basically an anthology of an incredibly wide variety of rich fiction and nonfiction pieces and the accompanying skills that should be taught. And they also provided us with A TON of extra resources like workbooks and copyable practice sheets. The uncool thing is that there are lots of worksheets that seem superfluous and, at times, silly; these I just don’t use. But, all in all, they give you so much support that it’s really a rich resource.
I’ve been going by instinct and student feedback a lot: when I administer a quiz or a test, I will almost always ask my students at least one question like: “How are you enjoying English 11 so far? What has been your favorite assignment to date? What would you like to do differently in the next unit?” Many students complained that using the textbook so much was draining. At this point, for both 10th and 11th grades, I figured it was a fine time to introduce novels to the students. This has been a good lesson — not just because of the lessons the books themselves have to teach — but also because students are held to a different level of accountability. Now that they are reading novels, they are expected to keep up with their reading and their homework assignments. As soon as we’re done with the novels, we will likely switch back to some more textbook work, which, at that point, they may be grateful for.
My advice to you (not that you were asking for it) is this:
1. Try not to worry. Worry will not get you anywhere. If you are inherently a teacher, you will teach. No one can slow you down. And if you are a good teacher, and a kind teacher, and a fair teacher, and a creative teacher, your students will learn.
2. No matter what they tell you, there’s room for creativity. Don’t stop jotting down ideas you have while driving home from school in the evenings. Don’t stop thinking about teaching. The ideas will come. Some will work, some won’t. Even with non-fiction texts like speeches, there’s room for creativity. It’s all about making the material accessible and relative to your students. Once you do that, you’re unstoppable.
3. WRITING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! If your students can express their ideas clearly and provide valid support for their claims, you’ve done it; you’ve succeeded. Be an effective communicator, writer, and reader, and you will be an effective teacher.
I’m not sure if I’m the luckiest first year teacher ever or if others have had a similar experience to me, but I have a phenomenal administration that has trusted me with the oldest students in the school (I also happen to teach the principal’s daughter, and haven’t received any complaints yet); I have a variety of resources at my fingertips; I work in a small school; and I’m silly, cheerful, compassionate, and accommodating to my students and their needs. This blend of circumstances has come together and the result is that I’m having a great time and an amazing experience. If you would ever like to chat about anything in the field, or ask me any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
This is a wonderful article. I couldn’t agree more. I am in participation right now in 1st grade and the mandates are disgusting. Standardized tests are not developmentally appropriate for children. The requirements for implementing the standards are making children hate school at a young age. This will not help them be “college and career ready.” Thanks for writing a great opinion piece…our politicians and Pearson need to read this!!