Common Core isn’t core of problem
Parents in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. would rather pull their children from school than let them continue their education in an environment that values testing over learning.
During a meeting in a high school auditorium, parents expressed concern regarding the stressful environment in which their children spend the majority of their time. According to The New York Times, one father said that “teaching to a test is destroying our society,” even driving students to take performance-enhancing drugs such as Xanax in order to cope.
Parents and educators across Florida are taking part in a widespread national protest to remove the controversial Common Core State Standards Initiative for teaching mathematics and English language arts in the public school system. Alongside concerned parents are educators who are pushing for a more “flexible” classroom. However, if it’s the stress from tests that concern parents, then that should be the focus of their protests, rather than gutting the Common Core. I and many fellow Carnegie Mellon students would agree that our health should come first in education.
The well-being of students is incredibly important for learning to take place. Generally, students dealing with extremely high levels of stress do not have the best performance in classrooms. Florida parents want a classroom environment where they feel comfortable sending their children — one that supports students’ health and social well-being.
Removing the Common Core alone from the public school system will not necessarily reduce the stress affecting students’ well-being. In lieu of the Common Core, school districts and states will create their own local standards. These local standards will most likely still include tests.
Although most of our university professors and teaching assistants don’t particularly enjoy spending hours grading the stacks of midterm exams piled upon their desks, exams exist and will probably continue to exist. Exams are simply an accurate way of evaluating the learning that occurs in the classroom.
The stress from tests is unavoidable, and parents and educators have a point in that the classroom should not be a place that students fear. However, tests are valuable learning tools that allow educators to evaluate their students and make improvements to their teaching method if necessary.
We must understand that the Common Core is not a curriculum in itself. It does not necessarily place educators in a box, that keeps them from implementing their own ideas. Instead, it sets standards for curricula with the goal of reaching a certain level of academic success. Let’s think about job interviews. Job interviews are evaluations for employers and recruiters. Just like tests, interview environments are highly stressful, but we put ourselves through the process anyway in pursuit of a greater goal. If you want a career working for a company, big or small, the company will ask for an interview. There is no getting around it, because it’s the best and, typically, most fair method of evaluation.
As states have already taken action to reduce the number of tests, we have yet to hear of a school district eliminating tests completely. Advocating for an improvement in the classroom environment to promote a healthier kind of learning is feasible, but treating the Common Core as a scapegoat is not the answer.