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Megan Ross: It will take time to meet new Common Core standards

Megan Ross

I am the first to admit I don’t like math. It never clicked for me in school, and I still resist it as much as possible. This is no secret.

One night, while helping my fifth-grader get through his homework, we came to the math portion and I offered to help. My son looked at me and said, “No, Mama, this is the hard stuff. We should wait for Dad.” Fair enough.

This new Common Core math is no joke. It’s hard, and I admit that I’m not smarter than a fifth-grader when it comes to figuring this stuff out.

A quick look on social media shows that there is a lot of disdain for the Common Core.

Before placing too much judgment on the Common Core, or rushing to get rid of it, we should be patient. Give our students and teachers a chance to rise to the challenge of these new standards.

Parents post that they can’t help their kids or express continued frustration with how the new lessons are taught.

I’m sure you saw the one about the Ohio dad who wrote a check to his child’s school using the 10-frame cards that are being taught in elementary math. His post included #YouFigureItOut

Combine those stories and social media posts with the release of school test scores and people are really worked up over Common Core. But, before we overthrow the standards, let’s slow down and look at this as a whole.

In its simplest form, the Common Core standards were created to ensure that students across the country were being taught the same standards, and that students would graduate from high school with college and career readiness.

Perhaps the issue isn’t that the new curriculum is too hard or that it’s too much to ask of kids. Perhaps the bigger issue is that when the homework gets tough it’s easier to blame the institution or the politicians rather than encourage kids to learn something new.

Parents are struggling with homework because it’s so different from what they learned.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

The United States has continually ranked at the bottom with student math and science scores. We haven’t been able to keep up in world rankings. Clearly that old system wasn’t working.

These Common Core standards are asking kids to think and explain their thinking. Writing down that the answer is “two” isn’t enough anymore. Kids have to write an explanation of how they reached that answer. And isn’t that more like the real world anyway?

If your boss asks you to complete research and report back with the best answer, you’ll need more than just “two” as your response.

The boss will want to know why you reached that answer and how you reached that answer. You have to support your findings.

This is what’s happening in academic subjects. Students in English, history and science are asked to prove their answers with evidence from the text. Even math is requiring a written explanation as part of the answer.

Last spring, Nevada County tested 5,827 students and 48 percent of those students met or exceeded the standard in English Language Arts and 36 percent met or exceeded the standard in Math.

At the high school district we celebrated our results: 61 percent met or exceeded the English standards. That’s well over the 44 percent who did the same at the state level. In math, the district had 34 percent of students meet or exceed the standard. Still better than the 33 percent for the state.

Before you start arguing that the statistics read the other way show that 66 percent of students in the district couldn’t meet the math standards, take into account that last year marked the first time the Common Core standards were being used in the classroom.

It was also the first time technology played such a large role in testing. The test required students to listen to some passages and respond. Other portions required students to highlight and manipulate text on the computer.

There’s a huge learning curve in just using the computer correctly.

The numbers reflect a solid start for our county and the new standards. This hasn’t been an easy transition for anyone.

Teachers are learning new ways to teach, students are adjusting to a new way to learn and parents are learning new ways to help at home. This isn’t going to be a quick fix for a broken system.

The reality is we won’t know the real success or failures of Common Core for a few years. The kindergartners who started school in 2014-15 are the first group to use the new standards from the beginning of their educational careers.

Students currently in upper elementary, middle and high school likely face the most difficult challenges as they are being asked to shift their learning styles in a big way.

Before placing too much judgment on the Common Core, or rushing to get rid of it, we should be patient. Give our students and teachers a chance to rise to the challenge of these new standards.

This new challenge may be the key to their success in the job world and helping the U.S. be more competitive with other countries.

Megan Ross is a Partnership Academy teacher at Nevada Union High School and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinion is her own and does not reflect the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board. Contact her via EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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