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“Common Core” is the label of the national set of standards that will apply to K-12 public school students in the United States for the subjects of English language arts and math. The initiative to create a rigorous national set of standards is part of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top (“RttT”).
In exchange for adherence to the Common Core State Standards, adopting states received federal money. Of the 45 states that originally signed on to adopt Common Core, however, 20 are in various stages of reconsidering full, on-time deployment. In Connecticut, for example, public criticism is strong enough that the state department of education is seeking a PR firm to create a pro-Common Core media campaign. Budget for the project is $1 million.
States’ current adoption progress
In exchange for RttT funding, states need to adopt the standards, be subject to standardized testing based on the standards, create teacher evaluation tools that are tied to the standards, and create digital data mechanisms for test-taking and information gathering on America’s students.
While the United States’ Department of Education, corporate leaders, the national PTA (Parent Teacher Association), and the National Governor’s Association support the standards, not everyone is so quick to do so. Educational reformer and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, is a vocal critic of standardized assessments; she is also critical of tying teacher evaluations to student performance.
Political conservatives are concerned about federal infringement on states’ rights and they are concerned that the Tenth Amendment is being violated with the federal influence of the RttT money. Equally alarming to them is what they feel to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment in the collection of data on students that used to be protected by HIPPA and FERPA.
Personalizing Common Core
For my capstone project, I wanted to find hear from teachers who are currently in the process of implementing Common Core; and I wanted to find out what angles my readers would be interested in having me investigate for my Master’s thesis. The political battle rages, but how is the process going for teachers who are tasked with having the system operational by the 2014-15 school year?
Reddit user /u/cest-bon noted the following: “Common Core has not been field tested. No longitudinal studies have been conducted to demonstrate a case for long-term success. The standards were created by corporate interests and governmental agencies without adequate input from teachers and parents. Teacher preparation has been inadequate. The costs associated with acquiring the technology to be compliant with the standardized testing is going to place additional cost burdens on districts and supply a boon of purchases to companies like Microsoft.”
Speaking of developmental appropriateness in math specifically, /u/arouson says Common Core, “…forces (students) to think too deeply when they need to be mastering fundamentals.” This user is concerned that the rules are chaning mid-game for students at the higher end of the K-12 spectrum.
New teacher /u/metroid6B12 shares stories heard from veteran teachers who have lived through other sweeping curriculum changes, and recommends I follow that line of inquiry. The user sees the value and supports the idea of rigorous standards but voices concern over the emphasis on standardized tests.
“I think this is an ineffective way to evaluate and only one small component of the broader educational experience. It is also subject to far too many variables. I can have a student demonstrate a problem to me perfectly one day, then give an assessment the next day and he bombs it. No rhyme or reason, the kid just didn’t get it that day.”
What my readers want
To find out what elements my readers want to see, I created a survey, but got few actionable results. The primary question of the survey was to ask which elements people would like to see. If you, Dear Reader, would be so kind as to visit the survey and let me know what would be of interest to you, it would help me to focus my efforts on the angles that are of interest to you!
Sarah and Brad Jones have a one year old named Brynlee. Brynlee has cystic fibrosis, or “CF,” a disease which renders approximately 30,000 U.S. citizens vulnerable to life-threatening respiratory and digestive issues.
In addition to the respiratory treatment in the video above, the family has a protocol to support Brynlee’s digestive health. Born with a blocked intestinal tract, their daughter has struggled to get adequate nutrition from birth. A nasogastric tube or “NG tube” inserted through Brynlee’s nose carries night-time nutrition to her stomach where she is able to receive it without the work normally associated with digestion.
The digestive enzymes which accompany every meal cost $600 per month, and the respiratory treatment costs $2,500 per month.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the national clearinghouse for information and the primary fund-raising arm of the community affected by cystic fibrosis, follows the development of new treatments. Current focus is on identifying and treating the underlying genetic mutations that cause the disease.
For a person to get CF, each parent needs to be a carrier of the mutated gene. Of children born to those parents, one in four will develop the disease, two will be carriers themselves, and one will be unaffected.
But those odds, didn’t hold up in the case of the Jones family who have had two children affected by the disease. Three years ago, the family lost their first-born son, Conner, to the diseaase: Jones says that with Conner, instead of a single tote of medications, they had cupboards full.
Conner was seven.
Family friend, Tricia Rodman, is part of the church body that provided critical emotional and practical support to the Jones family as Conner’s disease became more critical. In a phone conversation, Rodman told stories about the family as Conner’s time was getting short.
The family had taken a trip to Hawaii as part of the Make A Wish Foundation. Rodman asked Conner to select his favorite pictures from his trip. “He loved Transformers and Super Grover and so of course we found pictures of those,” reported Rodman. “We traced his hand, and I had him write his name on some transferable paper.”
Conner had wanted a puppy whom he named Grover, in honor of the Sesame Street character. During one of Conner’s last visits to Doernbecher’s hospital, his parents and some family friends launched “Operation Grover,” according to Rodman, where they snuck the puppy up into Conner’s hospital room. Rodman spoke with joint sadness and fondness for the Jones family and the dedicated group that surrounded them in their darkest hours.
Rodman recounts the day when Conner passed away at home. “After Conner had passed, Grover was just beside himself. He could tell that something was wrong. I took Grover into Conner’s room and I laid him on Conner’s chest,” Rodman said. She was moved by how the puppy immediately calmed down and lay still.
“He was protecting his boy,” Rodman said, with a voice broken up by tears.
Mom Sarah is hopeful for Brynlee’s prognosis. She says her two unaffected boys, Hunter and Bradyn, don’t treat their sister differently until she gets sick and they become very concerned. You can read her family’s journey and see more pictures of the Jones children on her blog.
For more information about cystic fibrosis or to donate, visit www.cff.org.
Note: Special thanks to Tricia Rodman for correcting some details that I got wrong in my initial writing of this article. An update on 10/17/2013 reflects this correction of the details “Operation Grover” and the situation surrounding Conner’s passing.