As Common Core standards kick in, debate rages on
Bud Harrington, a retired English teacher from the East Side Union High School District, was known for unique classroom activities such as ghost storytelling in a darkened theater, analyzing songs from his Simon & Garfunkel playlist and putting together a personal magazine.
While other teachers focused on getting their students to meet standards, Harrington said he made an effort to enhance students' creativity, cultural appreciation and enthusiasm for learning. His classroom relied on a relaxed, bean bag-filled atmosphere with "assignments that allowed for low-achieving, high-risk students to enjoy learning and to stay in school," he said.
"School should never be about making mindless working robots out of human beings," Harrington said. "While students need the technology and the ability to adapt, they should never be deprived of learning sweeping lines from Shakespeare or admiring the subtle colors that Michelangelo used when painting the Sistine Chapel."
California schools have slowly been implementing Common Core standards, which are meant to ensure that students are ready for life beyond high school. The standards focus on collaboration and the development of verbal communication skills to prepare students for college and career.
But while most educators have embraced the standards, Harrington does not believe these standards are beneficial to students. He is in the minority among teachers and administrators recently surveyed by WestEd, a nonprofit organization working with education.
The study, conducted earlier in the year, reported that "56 to 92 percent of teachers and administrators believe that the new standards are more rigorous than previous standards, that the standards make learning more relevant to students' everyday lives, and that the standards will positively impact the degree to which students are prepared for college and careers."
Bernadette Marcias, a sixth-grade teacher at San Jose's Carolyn Clark Elementary School, numbers among the majority of teachers who support the shifts in language arts, explaining that "it comes down to making sure your students have the skills to be in the real world. I want to make sure when a student leaves my classroom, they can express their ideas without being afraid, that they can be a leader."
However, she acknowledged potential drawbacks to the focus on collaboration and discussion that comes with the new standards.
"Students without the vocabulary and verbal and writing skills can be seen as not being a team player because they don't have the basics and cannot participate in higher-level discussion groups," Marcias said.
Concern for students who struggle with the basics of reading and writing is common among As Common Core standards kick in, debate rages on - San Jose Mercury News: