The Common Core Conundrum
A MiddleWeb Blog
So many of my past posts focus around co-teaching with the Common Core in mind. In my most recent blog posts, I have shared how I am striving to align the Common Core in my inclusion classes.
► Check this link to read how I am balancing the mindset needed to juggle four inclusion classes.
► Check this link to read how one co-teacher and I are implementing the co-teaching models to maximize instruction.
► And this link will take you to some ideas I have about the necessity for collaborating with colleagues near and far in order to provide the best instruction.
While I am continuing on my mission to create a positive Common Core pathway for my students, this post will focus on my experiences with what I call the Common Core Conundrum.
I am a teacher who enthusiastically embraces high expectations for students. My students are capable, and I find that they achieve when they are supported to meet all of their academic, emotional, and physical needs. Yet here I am this week feeling disheartened.
Here’s the conundrum
Let me begin with my genuine appreciation that special education has come so far from the parallel educational program it once was. Today, so much of special ed is inclusive and filled with opportunities for all students to meet the challenges of our global economy and 21st century life in general.
The students I know and work with are so capable. When given the right supports, they make progress to demonstrate their personal best. These are exciting times. Yet there’s an essential link missing somewhere. It is the link that connects the ideals of the Common Core with the reality of day-to-day implementation. Hence, the Common Core Conundrum.
Last week we finished Module 1 in the math curriculum. Here’s what a few students had to say when asked how they feel about math so far this year.
I used to like math, but it’s just too hard for me this year. I don’t understand why I just can’t get good grades anymore. I get it when I come for extra help, but then I can’t do it on my own.
One student just sank down in his seat and said: I am just stupid.
So I can’t help but ask myself, how is the Common Core good for these students? Am I right to feel so energized about the possibilities that these high expectations have for my students?
I fall back on my belief that in time—it will be a very good thing. But right now, the complex steps, the pace, and the testing of the curriculum are out-distancing what these students are ready for right now.
It feels nearly impossible (and yet I am determined to hold on to the great possibilities) to scaffold the instruction to provide the students with the background knowledge they need to keep up and to be independent in today’s classrooms. The link between the ultimate value of the Common Core and the way that teachers have to surge ahead with the Common Core right this minute is just misaligned. There’s no breathing space. No time to build the sturdy scaffold. Really? The transition to higher performance must be instantaneous?
How do we bring the Common Core into the real world?
How can we strengthen this link between scaffolding the wonderful rigor of the Common Core with what the students are actually ready for right now? And how can we make sure that students with special needs are supported in meaningful ways to ensure the quality and outcomes that they deserve? So they don’t feel “stupid”?
In my inclusion math class, many students were beyond discouraged when they got back their grades from the unit test for Module 1. Many shared their hesitancy to go home and share their grades with their parents. When given the opportunity to complete test corrections, many expressed the desire to just forget about it.
The overall student perspective was not a positive response to the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. They were missing the joy of the learning process. Their focus was on the stress and the pressure they felt at the thought of going back to make corrections and explain their thinking. One student clearly spoke for the rest of the group when he said: “What’s the use, I didn’t know how to do it for the test, so how will I know how to do it now?”
Added to this stress was their worry about going home and losing their phone privilege or getting grounded for yet another bad grade. This concerns me greatly.
How do we help stressed-out students?
How can we diminish the stress and pressure that students are feeling? How will we help students stay focused on what the Common Core should be all about? How will we keep these students focused on the learning process—on the awesome opportunity to learn from mistakes if they are just met with stress and pressure from their efforts?
As part of my ongoing communications with parents, I send them a weekly email to update them on the week ahead. Here’s what I added in hopes of creating a firm bridge between home and school, as well as a positive focus on the learning process for students.
The results of the Module 1 math test were bleak for so many students. As I told the students, they should allow some time to feel disappointed, of course. But they should not get discouraged for long. They worked very hard, and it is frustrating when grades do not reflect that.
We must hold on to the process of learning here, so that they move forward with a positive mindset to put forth their best efforts ahead. They need to redirect their energy into realizing what they can do from this point. We are giving the students a chance to make test corrections. This will help them to further internalize the concepts and to earn some points to their test grade. They will complete the retake in school throughout next week. On the bright side, Module 2 is off to a great start—there is hope that they will have an easier time keeping up with the concepts.
Where do we go from here?
We know some obvious solutions:
► We must make sure our IEP’s are aligned with the standards.
► We must make sure our students are provided the most appropriate accommodations and modifications as necessary.
What I want to know is how can we move toward some strategic solutions. How can we repair the bridge between the ideals of the Common Core and the reality of day-to-day implementation? How can we solve this Common Core Conundrum?
Please comment below. Our students need us to have this necessary conversation. Together, let’s find the solutions.