Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the Common Core State Standards. For the uninitiated, they are the instructional standards for kindergarten through grade twelve, the core math and language arts content that students should have mastered by the time they graduate from high school.
Initially, Common Core was adopted by most of the fifty states, including the great state of Florida. As with anything new, it was greeted with huge controversy and there was a lot of loud protest against the Common Core.
I had no problem with Common Core, per se. I mean, doesn’t it seem reasonable to say that first graders in Maine, Oregon, Iowa, and Texas should all be learning the same thing? If only so that if Johnny moves from Freeport, ME to Portland, OR in the middle of the year, he’ll be up to speed?
I think the visceral negative reaction was more due to the fact that once again, standards were tied to big, high-stakes, standardized testing. I prefer to think of these tests as “Gotcha!” assessments. If Johnny has a head cold and didn’t get the right amount of sleep the night before, or, heaven forbid, he’s just not feeling it on a given day, Gotcha! You, the student, fail, and you, the teacher, are incompetent.
At any rate, mucho dinero and ridiculous amounts of time were spent in the pursuit of retraining teachers and administrators on the Common Core State Standards. Whereas previously, Florida teachers were required to teach to the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), now we were being required to teach to the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). I know what you’re thinking. Six one, half-dozen the other, right? That’s where you’d be wrong.
You see, FCAT is owned by Pearson, and they have been getting millions of dollars for years for administering and scoring the test. Ironically enough, they also get millions of dollars for selling intervention materials for students who score poorly on the test. Well, that’s convenient.
PARCC, however, is a consortium of participating states, and according to the website, not affiliated with a publishing company. The process of developing the test is described in this way: The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.
But alas, none of that matters, because despite having spent the last three years gearing up for the inaugural launch of the PARCC this coming spring, the great state of Florida decided, in its infinite wisdom, to opt out of Common Core State Standards. We were informed of this mid-May of last year. We will, instead, be teaching the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Florida Standards (MaFS). I shit you not. And, obviously, there will have to be a new standardized high-stakes test. Do you suppose someone’s brother-in-law will get the bid for administering and scoring it?
And oh, by the way, said the powers that be, here’s a list of concepts you haven’t covered yet, but you need to cover them by the end of the year so that next year’s second graders will be up to speed. I’m sorry. Your emergency is not my emergency.
Which brings us back around to the the present. We’re being asked to revamp our math block. Must prepare for the new test. Which my first graders won’t take for another two years. Or at all, if the powers that be change their minds again.
We’ll need to add math centers. Which we used to do, then were told we couldn’t do them, now we’ve gotta again. Sigh. I wanted to share a picture of a manipulative my girl Miz O Postrophe made. She gives credit to Teacher Tipster for the idea, but it’s a really good thing.
Ten frame made by Miz O Postrophe, from an idea by Teacher Tipster
You’re looking at a Dollar Tree baking sheet, painter’s tape, and two-color counters with magnetic tape on the back of them. Boom! You’ve got a ten frame.
Here’s what I think. Regardless of which standards we use or what standardized high-stakes test we are expected to teach to, the truth is the truth. At the first grade level, we’re teaching the nuts-and-bolts foundational skills of reading, writing, addition, and subtraction. All the rest is smoke and mirrors.