This past week, Governor Brian Kemp unveiled his thoughts on education reform in the state. Central to his ideas is teacher pay raises. Another ares the Governor wants to focus on is Common Core. When I first started hearing about Common Core, the rumblings were coming from conservative activists of a particular brand of crazy. They wanted me to know it was a Fortune 500 conspiracy to help introduce sharia law into the United States.
The second set of concerns were that major corporations and progressive interests were designing curricula around Common Core to indoctrinate children into progressive values. But, of course, that frequently happens without Common Core. Enough conservatives started complaining that I figured I would look into it. Before I did, I began experiencing Common Core with my children.
The program is not a bad program. It is just badly executed by most, if not all, of the various curricula designed for it. The concept is actually good. The United States is a mobile society. As a result, there should be uniformity in standards and curriculum. Students who move from one state to another in the middle of a school year, should be at the same place in math, science, and reading. They should be learning the same things.
Unfortunately, the Common Core execution is awful. It is abundantly obvious the Fortune 500 really did help create it to create good little automatons for vast corporations and stamp out creativity and entrepreneurialism. Let me explain our family’s personal example.
The Accelerated Reader program, or “AR,” is not technically part of Common Core, but most schools that use Common Core also use AR. The former is more general and the latter is more specific to help accomplish Common Core’s functions. My children went to a private, blue ribbon winning Christian school that used Common Core and AR. Children were challenged to read books at their grade level, take AR quizzes on the books, and complete a variety of readings from a variety of styles of books.
In practical terms that meant the kids were reading books at grade level that were not significantly challenging so that they could take more quizzes, read more books, and get more points. The incentive was on volume, not on quality. Non-fiction got elevated above fiction, which tended to mean that the books were not as rich and creative. The byproduct of all this was my kids hated reading.
In their new school, which uses a classical education program, the kids are rewarded for reading thicker, more challenging books. They are not racing to get AR points. They are working through a variety of books in a variety of genres with the students being rewarded for choosing complex books. My ten year old has fallen in love with reading, finally, and is half-way through a 400 page book written for kids older than him.
Math was no better. My engineer father-in-law and computer programming wife could never help with the Common Core math homework. It made them angry. In the new school, math is math and my daughter who hated the subject is now in an honors class.
Surprisingly, the lesson here is that education patterns that worked for a thousand years still work and the modern education trends like Common Core tend to be fads. Thankfully, our kids now love reading and math. Thankfully, Brian Kemp wants to scrap Common Core so other kids can begin enjoying learning again instead of just preparing for the next test.