Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I need to blow off steam here, just be warned: I hate the Common Core State Standards Math

It has been a rough year for one of my kids and it isn't quite over yet.

Our state has adopted the Common Core State Standards for Math and English.  On it's face, it seems a good idea to help set benchmarks for what students learn to get them ready for college.

In our state, tests must be passed with 70% or above. If a student gets good percentage scores on the homework, but fails the tests, they don't pass the class.

Sounds pretty rigorous right?  Just takes a bit more effort on the part of the student and teacher, right?
You would think that.

Here's the problem. My child doesn't "get" math to begin with.  My child was struggling BEFORE the CCSS was adopted here. That was with a textbook and a tutorial website connected with it that actually walked a person through a problem with an animated pen used by a math teacher explaining what he was doing as he went along.  That combination saved my child from ignominious defeat.

The last two years, as a freshman and then sophomore in high school, my child has had to do homework without the benefit of a textbook.  NO TEXTBOOK. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.  It has been years since I was in a high school math class.  It's a little hard to remember what I did learn.  I need reminders, an explanation, an example, a reference to look at.  I asked the teacher if my child could have an old textbook that kind of matched what they were learning in class. I was told there wasn't.  I asked if there was a textbook online that I could buy myself. I was told there wasn't one.  I looked online anyway. Um, hmm. Maybe not .

There is a wonderful neighbor lady who used to be a math teacher, now retired, that has been trying to help my child out, but even our neighbor has to see an example to remind her of the way to solve the problems.   The homework sheets don't have examples, only problems.  Still, she soldiers on.

We have tried looking on the internet for help, but sometimes the websites don't fully explain things in a way that my child understands.

The teacher told me that the new curriculum has bits and pieces of several levels of math mixed in throughout the year. A bit of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, etc.  It's based on a European model.  She said a lot of students can't wrap their heads around the stuff - it's cognitively beyond them - too advanced. My child's math teacher was beyond frustrated the last time I talked to her.  I can see why.

My child goes to school an hour early to get tutoring, but if the teacher has more than 4 or 5 students show up, there isn't much time to help each person.  The teacher has a total of more than 220 students in her math classes, and this year she has had a couple of severe bouts of illness that landed her in the hospital.  More than two weeks this year were overseen by non math teaching substitutes. There are no after-school tutoring programs.  Last year we added "Math Lab" to my child's schedule when last year's math teacher suggested it might help to review more basic concepts.  My child got A's in the math lab, but math lab doesn't count toward math credit, neither did it help my child to pass the tests in the "real" math class.

Our high school math department doesn't fail kids outright if they fail the tests. They give the students an Incomplete and allow the kids to retake tests. Once they pass, they can get a grade for that term.  That makes sense to me, but of course, eventually, you run out of time to retake tests and then you get what you get.  If a student fails the class, they aren't required to take the course over again, they are placed in the next course up the next school year by the district.  To make up the credit, a student either can do some time in summer school, or complete "packets" of worksheets "to ensure they learn the material".
I called the counseling office to see if there was anything they could suggest.  The counselor assigned to my child, and every other student from S - Z last names, said that summer school might be better so my child can actually learn more of the concepts taught this year, or do the "packet" which he admitted pretty much amounted to busy work.  I asked about textbooks.  He said there were none.  He told me that he was very concerned that their school's graduation rates were heading "for a train wreck" because the kids couldn't do the math. Both my child's teacher and the counselor told me that my child wasn't the only one struggling with the new curriculum.

My child isn't totally innocent here, for those of you who are thinking, "What isn't she telling us?"  When my child gets overwhelmed, recreational reading is the preferred escape.  My normally honest child will prevaricate, exaggerate, and even lie when I ask about math homework.  I've taken the hard line with my child at times (no library card, no free computer time, no t.v. on school nights, no book club). I've tried to "let the child experience natural consequences".  I've tried screaming, bribing, incentives, and all sorts of things to get my child to knuckle down. To be honest, I think my child has "failed" in math so often and for so long that my child has no longer the will to try.   Math has "defeated" both of us.  The CCSS is stomping on my child's eagerness to learn and pushed it to an early grave.  I can't preach perseverance against impossible odds when the odds keep smacking my kid to the floor.  In this case, perseverance hasn't "paid off", it's merely prolonging the torture.

So now what?  I'm not sure.  If the high school math department can't come up with a recommended textbook for next year, I'm going to gradually purchase as many "Math for Dummies" books in every subject from Pre-Algebra to Calculus, and pray that we'll be able to cobble enough resources together to get help for my kid. We'll still fish the internet for teacher's videos, for education websites with example problems and the like.  I think kids that start out in Common Core at the elementary level might have a fighting chance once they get to high school.  I'm sorry for the high school students now who can't seem to grasp everything.  They are not only getting left behind, but apparently they're getting a "sucks to be you" from not only our district but our state as well.

With our nation's obsession with standardized testing, I don't think the Common Core is going away soon. I certainly don't think it's helping anything, but "the powers that be" will go on with it anyway.  I think most of us parents will just keep trying to help our kids survive because every generation has hoops to jump through.  This is our hoop.  I don't like that it's on fire, but there you go.

So sorry to vent my spleen, but I had to get rid of it somehow. Complaining to the teacher, the counselor, the school, hasn't amounted to a hill of beans. So I'm done throwing my fit.


Pam said...

How about petitions from the parents sent to State and Local leaders?
There is always someone in the district that seems to have to prove how necessary they are at the district by throwing something wild into the system. I wonder who it was?
What happened to NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND?
I give the district or state a F for awful teaching!
How about sending your comments from this blog to someone in the education department or your representative?

Anonymous said...

We are also dealing with Common Core nightmares in our home! You're dead on!!!! There is no textbook - only three very confusing workbooks with little to NO explanations, examples, etc.!!!! The material is so confusing and way beyond what seems appropriate- not to mention completely useless for the vast majority of people. Furthermore, the teachers have not been adequately trained to teach the material! I'd love to know who in the world tested this out, approved it, etc.!! I can't imagine it was anyone who has ANY insight into the minds or development of children!