The new school year is approaching. I know this because a few days ago I saw my first “Going Back to School Sale” being advertised on television. Many families are now seen scurrying through malls shopping for school dress and supplies. It is a scene I’ve been part of for over three decades. Schools are also getting ready for the influx of students with dreams of becoming anything they want to become.
Winding through the malls hoping to find the perfect pair of socks, I overheard a group of people talking about how expensive schools are today and they are filled with people who abuse the system and take multiple long vacations. One of the people stated he could tell who was a teacher by what they were wearing. Looking down at my flowered yellow combination bathing suit, shorts, and pajamas I wanted to find a barrier to hide behind. Then the classic comment about teaching was proudly expressed. “Those who can do and those who can’t teach. I’ve heard this statement for well over 30 years and it still aggravates the hell out of me. Don’t people realize that those who can do because they were taught how too?
I am saddened to say today is a bit different from past years because the emphasis is no longer on the success of our students dreams but rather surrounded by a demand that “Common Core Standards” be followed. The success of our students are no longer surrounded by a love of learning but rather by succeeding in a test that basically means nothing to the student and everything to the school that is competing to achieve the highest score. Who in this God’s Green Earth should care about how well a school ranks when compared to other schools test scores. This has never made any sense to veteran teachers or me who’ve been teaching for decades.
Webster defines motivation as, "a means of providing a reason for doing something." For over three decades I've had the honor of teaching chemistry. I am proud to say many of my students decided to study this central science in order to make it their career choice. I am proud of this fact. In past years my classes consisted of between 15 and 18 students. Last year's College Board’s Advanced Placement Chemisry Test destroyed both the confidence and motivation of many of my students because the test was based on a student’s thought process instead of the wonders of chemistry. Next year, which will be my last year, my class size will be 7. The study of chemistry can't be surrounded by a success in a test, especially this new system that seems to want to trick students instead of seeing if they understand the science’s concepts.
I am pleased to report there is a bit of rebellion going on in the College Board’s community. I would love to join any group of teachers in order to stop this new testing system. One comment I heard from most of last year’s students is they never had to use their calculators. In other words, the objectiveness of science has been replaced by subjective ideas. The success of science has to do with proving concepts using mathematics and scientific laws of nature. To replace objective truths with subjective concepts eliminates the definition of science. They also told me the concepts I taught them and they knew well had little to do with the AP test. Many of these students are second-guessing their choice of careers because of an ill-conceived test.
Motivation should be the top priority in the art of teaching. The definition of “Common Core Standards” is to ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade. Remember this is a national program run by the department of education in Washington DC. We have lost local control over our schools and what will be taught to our children.
Where did these standards come from? The standards were drafted by experts across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful. Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the standards. What the hell is the Department of Defense Education?
We need local control of our children. We’ve made the mistake before having national political organizations educate our children. Remember the “No Child Left Behind” program. There are few who would label this national program a success. Many working with common core also worked for NCLB.
I never found a barrier to hide behind. I walked up to this group of parents and asked them to please pay attention to what and how their children are being taught. I also introduced myself as a teacher even though my choice of attire had much to be desired.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and writer living in York, Maine