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Arizona Stories from School: Educational Malpractice

“Educational malpractice” was how one parent in a New York City education forum described the implementation of Common Core standards in our current educational system.  I agree with this description, especially with the lack of scaffolding of the transition of the Common Core standards from state standards. 

Having taught with Common Core in my first grade classroom for two years, I have no qualms about focusing my instruction on these rigorous standards.  I endorse the increase of informational and functional reading and writing in the classroom, especially as the technology of the 21st century focuses primarily on these forms of text.  As a math teacher, I value the increased emphasis of number sense and reasoning in the curriculum.  But how I am expected to teach these standards has been frustrating.

We know that scaffolding is one of the most important elements of a successful lesson.  Scaffolding includes modeling the expectations of the lesson, providing guided practice, and stepping back to observe how the students independently apply the new skill.  As Common Core standards were hastily thrust upon the teachers within the past two years, it was not modeled, practiced, or applied independently for teachers, students, or parents.  Although impressive with its rigor and relevance, the hasty grand entrance of the Common Core standards has been setting them up for failure.

As any warm-blooded American teacher would know, a change in standards gets the textbook industry very excited.  It means a great profit as districts are frantically scrambling for the suitable curriculum to meet newer, fresher standards.  After the textbook adoption is finalized, purchased, and delivered, teachers are provided with beautiful new books for themselves and the students.  But this time our textbooks are crammed with more and more and more to teach……. What happened to depth, not breadth?  I am expected to teach about 8 elements of literacy in my two-hour Language Arts block.  I am finding it impossible to teach these concepts to mastery with so much to cover in a short amount of time.  Also, as these new curricular resources are mandatory to implement in the classroom, they are focusing on Common Core standards that may have not been reinforced the previous year, therefore making students confused and frustrated.  Teachers are having a hard time finding the time to support the random leap in standards as they have an increased amount of material to teach. 

Preschool experience is crucial to the success of Common Core in the schools.  If children are not taught the building blocks of reading, writing, and math skills before Kindergarten, they may find Kindergarten to be challenging and/or frustrating with its newer rigorous expectations.  Districts must provide free preschool experiences for students to build avid learners who are ready for the Common Core.  Some districts are providing more preschool opportunities in Arizona, but it should be instilled in every school.

As Arizona is gearing up for its first year of the implementation of “Move On When Reading,” third grade teachers, students, and their parents are in the hot seat this year.  If third grade students achieve a failing score on the reading portion of the state standardized assessment in the spring of 2014, they will be retained.  Third grade teachers are expected to provide numerous interventions for struggling readers throughout the school day, in addition to teaching other subject areas.  But isn’t third grade a little late to be determining what students are struggling in reading?  If students are struggling with reading in their fourth year of school, how will retention be the easy answer?  If the Common Core standards are expecting Kindergartners to read, the struggling students should be identified and retained in first grade.  Once again, the lack of scaffolding of Common Core standards is setting up struggling students for increased failure.

Although the Common Core standards are impressive, the lack of preparation for their implementation in the classroom is causing a lot of stress and frustration for everyone involved.  Quality instruction involves thoughtful implementation, reflection, and readjusting.  It’s time to pause and reflect on how we can readjust the implementation of Common Core standards to be successful in the classroom and accepted by all invested parties.  Some things to reflect on-  how can we interest and encourage parents to become invested in Common Core?  How can we provide mentors on a vertical level in the school setting as we implement the Common Core?  How do we educate parents of preschoolers about Common Core and prepare them for Kindergarten if they don't have preschool opportunities? 

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The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

Lisa Moberg

Lisa Moberg (formerly Gura) has been a teacher for 16 years, from kindergarten through 5th grade. ...