UDL Task 3: Common Core

By; Samantha Holthaus

What is Common Core?

The United States most recent educational development has been the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in our public school curriculum. The standards were developed by a wide range of educational experts and teachers in hopes of reforming our society's faltering education system. According to the Common Core State Standard Initiative: Preparing America's Students for College and Career the goal of Common Core is to "ensure students are prepared for today's entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs." Specifically the standards outline what intellectual goals and milestones students in specific grades should be reaching in subjects like Mathematics and Literacy. The overall notion is that the Common Core State Standards will be a comprehensive guide that help all teachers plan their lessons so they are skill based and fundamentally sound.

Common Core in the Classroom

Since being implemented in the classroom Common Core has received both positive and negative feedback from educators. Many teachers feel like the program is a step in the right direction in regards to revamping the educational curriculum; however, teachers are also have complaints about the steps taken to successfully implement the new program into schools and classrooms

Mrs. Tourscher's Experience

An Educators Perspective

To better understand Common Core and its effect on both teachers and students I spoke with Mrs. Tourscher, a second grade teacher at Joppatowne Elementary School. My goal for the interview was to get an insider perspective on how the Common Core State Standards are playing out in the classroom, and whether or not she feels the new development is truly benefiting her students.

Challenging or Easy?

When asked whether moving to Common Core was challenging or easy for her, her answer was simple.

"Challenging!' she remarked. "and that was not just for me, it was for most teachers in all counties and of all grade levels."

I was intrigued by her response and asked if she could further elaborate on her experience with the transition into Common Core. She explained that the move was mentally difficult. She discussed that while she felt the experts had the right intentions in changing the curriculum, the steps they took to implement the program, in her opinion were poorly thought out.

"Everything changed all at once" she said. "There was no easing into it. We were basically working with one curriculum one day, and a completely different one the next."

Her view on the standards reflected the opinions of someone that was thrown into a shark tank without an inkling of help as to how to survive. She mentioned her frustrations with her inability to find the proper resources to teach the expected curriculum.

"We were asked to teach from resources and curriculum we had not even received yet. It was a lot of making things up as I went along."

She made it clear that flexibility was key during the transition due to curriculum and resources arriving late and on some occasions never at all. Mrs. Tourscher also commented on her administrations response to the transition.

"They were great!" she explained "They were understanding because they knew the struggles we were facing, and I am thankful for that!"

Overall Mrs. Tourscher stressed that while change was necessary the transition to Common Core should have and could have been executed better.

Common Core in the Second Grade

Upon hearing Mrs. Tourscher's overall opinion on Common Core I asked if she could discuss more specifically the effects it has had on her second grade class.

"Besides my struggle with implementing the standards, I have not seen a huge difference in my students intellectual ability or potential, but it I think it is to soon to really see any notable differences" she said.

She discussed that for her students everything seems to be going smoothly except for some difficulties in math. She explained that the new math standards are much more rigorous, or at least they are for her students. When I asked her to elaborate on this she described her math block as painful.

"There is a lot more problem solving with Common Core" she said "and a lot of the content being taught now goes right over my students heads."

She described a classroom environment during math where students become easily frustrated, and thus easily driven off task. Mrs. Tourscher also mentioned how collaboration and group work to solve real world problems is more prevalent in common core, and how her students struggle in that area.

"They have not been taught the skills they need to be able to cooperatively collaborate with one another and now they are expected to do it all the time."

She explained that most of the time that is suppose to be spent in groups solving elaborate real world problems is now spent with her redirecting frustrated groups of unmotivated students.

Professional Development

I also asked Mrs. Tourscher if she could discuss her experience with Common Core in regards to professional development. I specifically wanted to know if she has been required to attend any meetings or training's that would help further her understanding of the standards and what is expected of her in the classroom. When asked this, Mrs. Tourscher made sure to emphasize that before the implementation of the program there were no Professional Development days that were specifically geared toward prepping teachers for the new curriculum. "Again" she said "we were all very unprepared."

She did however explain that the educational system tried a little harder to prepare teachers for the current school year by requiring teachers to attend two professional development days that revolved around common core. During the two days educators listened to expert speakers talk about the new program, and teachers were allowed to pick different workshops they felt would be beneficial specifically for their class.

Mrs. Tourscher explained how she and some of her colleagues chose to attend a couple math workshops that focused on how to teach the new mathematics standards in the classroom. She also mention how she really enjoyed the workshops and felt that she got more out of those two professional development days then she had in years past.

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