My name is Jaclyn Marra. I am a fifteen year old sophomore at Clarkston High School in Clarkston, Michigan. A student myself, I am concerned over the basis of my education. Through personal endeavors, I have found that in the United States of America, we claim to uphold standards far above those of the rest of the developed world. We are convinced we possess this alleged superiority over our competition in every aspect - living in a land based upon the very stuff of success. The truth, however, when it comes to education in specific (a topic of major importance in today’s age), is that we are ranked seventeenth out of forty in overall educational performance, twenty-fourth out of forty in high school literacy, and fourteenth out of forty in cognitive skills and educational attainment. With this data, we ask: how can a country, purportedly second to none, be ranked so low in relation to other countries around the world? The root of many of these shortcomings; Common Core Standards. While many believe that “The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills students will need to be successful”, the reality of the matter is that this method of education is inadequate in preparing students for a university level course and molding a culturally conscious youth. With Common Core practices, for english language arts in specific, students are not able to fully appreciate key cultural beliefs and concepts, our students are being disadvantaged by multiple years when compared to other nations, and intellectually disengaging techniques for learning are promoted. Thus, with the interest of the students and future of America, I propose to you that common core should be abolished across the United States; its insufficiency in preparing students for success beyond high school is horrific.
Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican political leader and journalist - before he died in 1940 - once remarked, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” This holds true today, but, nonetheless, is often ignored and neglected; extraneous to modern curriculum. Today’s system of educating our youth, lying in Common Core Standards, discourages the appreciation of culture on the part of students. In de-emphasizing the study of classic literature through the advocation of reading supposed “informational texts,” Common Core, and those who support it, deprive students of the “intangible benefits of studying classic literature” and the ability to “understand great principles that endure throughout human history” according to a group of parents, community members, and educators concerned with the “adoption”, implementation, data mining, and testing surrounding the Common Core State Learning Standards. In an interview with Peter Mili, a math teacher at a high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the educator shared his belief that “If a student who was taught how to think critically and how to read texts for information and analysis can explain the premise behind a mathematical thesis, she’ll have options and opportunities.” Though, the legitimacy of the issue, one that affects the vast majority of Americans either directly or indirectly, is that the real world is not one that entails specifically systematic thinking. Rather, life is measured by its meaning; the intricate, unique ideas aroused in deep thought, and the cultivation of an international community - an understanding of our purpose. With an education should come not only knowledge on facts, or “which step to take first in solving this problem”, but an abstract appreciation of and perception for the overarching themes of life and the human nature - crucial to shaping a culturally mindful, well rounded citizen. Reading strictly informational texts and nonfiction can certainly educate our youth on countless topics; make them more knowledgeable. But it cannot expand the mind of a child in the ways necessary for a sophisticated, open-minded adulthood and an exorbitantly high quality of life.
As formally stated, Common Core, as the basis for education around the country, is an issue of colossal magnitude - with today’s youth and students found at the epicenter. When asked about “Common Core” most students respond with a blank face and an emotionless, puzzled and dispassionate “I don’t know” or “What is that?” One student, however - Evan Hall, a fifteen year old (tenth grade) education activist, who devotes his time to research, data collecting, and speaking to others regarding reform in our current school system - stated, “When education was formulated in America, neither political party were fully developed, meaning we are mostly progressives which entails that something must be done to change the outdated system of education. The creation of the Common Core, however wrong, cannot be an unexpected move by our government.” For Evan, and I’m sure many other higher level students in the nation, Common Core curriculum is a hoax; one that fosters stagnant learning and little growth for the average child. Concerning its origin with President Obama and countless others who believed it was the salvation for inner-city schools, Common Core has accomplished the exact opposite. In fact, Common Core curriculum was counterproductive in the realm of urban, city school districts. Contradicting the initial belief that Common Core would allow for inner-city schools to perform better on standardized testing, school districts in poor economic environments will always struggle to obtain high scores on standardized testing compared to more affluent communities, as research has shown for more than 35 years. According to a 2014 study and calculations from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, using data provided by the College Board, students from the wealthiest families outscored those from the poorest by nearly four-hundred points on the SAT writing, reading, and math tests. This same study shows how students from upscale backgrounds, on average, score anywhere between twenty and eighty points over the national average for the test, while those from destitution tend to score between ten and sixty points under the national average - statistics that are, or should be, hard to ignore. What these struggling students need is a curriculum tailored to their needs, strengths, and confusions - not one that treats them as equals in a system where they were born into failure. In closing, Evan stated “The issue I see as a student is that the more curriculum is standardized, the less diversity is seen in education. Which will not only destroy opportunities for students, but it will demonstrate once more how the United States is lagging behind in the innovation of education.” In other words, we are a nation with wounds, only to be alleviated by modification.
It is no secret that the dispute over our education system is an affair outlined with controversy and division. While many think Common Core is detrimental to the academic success of a student and their future, others find it to be a structurally sound and fundamental foundation for educating future scholars. My mom, a middle school math and science teacher in the Bloomfield Hills district - one of the most revered school districts in Oakland county and the state of Michigan - seems to veer this way, articulating that “Common Core - if used and taught correctly - encourages a collaborative and rigorous approach to teaching and learning mathematics, one that values critical thinking and a depth of understanding rather than students simply memorizing facts without meaning. The increased expectations and rigor from an early age provide students with the opportunities and tools to compete on a global level.” Seeing the direct effects it has on children in the classroom firsthand, many teachers do pose the argument that perhaps this method of teaching and learning works, suggesting that its continuation is solicited. Again, Peter Mili stated in an interview that “Time is tight, especially because of all the benchmarks and high-stakes testing. So I’ve had to put the fun, creative activities aside to work on drill and skill. But the Common Core streamlines content, and with less to cover, I can enrich the experience, which gives my students a greater understanding.” Other teachers across the nation concur that in standardizing education and academic standards for all students, no matter their financial circumstance, a mutual bar will be raised, increasing performance and understanding amongst students across the board.
This concept, however, appealing on paper and logical in its basis, is both misleading and distorted. Despite the rationale behind the claim that Common Core encourages and advances scholastic equity, the glaring distinction between upper and lower class test scores and success is prominent. Inner-city school districts are a monstrous disaster, and still, nothing is being done. We wonder why we are unable to compete among the most elite nations in the world regarding education, yet we continue to trudge down a path of uniformity and monotony, rather than exploring a looping path of creativity, individualism, and substance. As a nation, we claim to harbor individuality, yet contradict ourselves with the actions we take. As a concerned, hopeful student, I strongly believe that something needs to be done; changed. Eradicating Common Core marks the first step.
@NEAToday. "Six Ways the Common Core Is Good For Students - NEA Today." NEA Today. 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.
Ravitch, Diane. "The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 July 2016. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.
Zumbrun, Josh. "SAT Scores and Income Inequality: How Wealthier Kids Rank Higher." WSJ. Wsj.com, 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.
"What Is Common Core? - Abolish Common Core." Abolish Common Core. 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.
"Ranking America." Ranking America. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.