Spell Gingerbread

Some friends have asked me to step out of objectivity and state my own personal feelings about Common Core and other education related reforms. My opinions are really not what’s important, because the students’ educational experience should be the focus. Nevertheless, here are my opinions. The United States wants to raise the educational standards, and my opinion is, of course it should. Why would anyone want to lower educational standards? The United States wants to raise the educational standards with the Common Core. Will the Common Core raise the educational standards? This question is much more interesting to answer.

When the Common Core first published its standards, there seemed to me 4 major categories of reactions: 1. Yes, this is great 2. No, this is not great 3. I have no opinion 4. I am confused

In 2012, when I first read the standards, I thought to myself, these seem all pretty reasonable. Some of the standards seems a little high, but overall, the standards seem appropriate for a country that wants to raise the educational standards. It was interesting to read that the Common Core tells you what to achieve in teaching, but it does not tell you what to teach or how to teach it. The battle over what to teach never really existed, because schools buy curriculums that set content. Curriculums tell teachers what to teach. Parents are not part of the decision making process of what to teach. The curriculums also tell teachers how to teach. Sometimes, teachers and adminstration gather to decide how to teach the content of the curriculums. However, no publisher, teacher or administrator has ever taught content set to the Common Core standards, and no teacher, publisher or administrator has had experience in how to teach to Common Core standards.

Now, in 2014, after seeing the reactions of teachers and administrators to the implementation of Common Core, I find myself in a fifth category that I did not see two years ago: I see unexpected results. So what appeared like a great idea to me, now worries me, because the situations looks like inventive spelling. A teacher gives a student an unfamiliar word to spell, and the student has to use his knowledge of word roots and phonics to figure out how to spell the word given to him. This is a popular kindergarten spelling activity, and I can honestly say, I have seen some of the most fascinating spellings of the word “gingerbread”. What’s even more fascinating is when I try to pronounce their spellings to prompt students to self correct.

It seems like teachers and administrators feel like they are given an inventive spelling activity. I can almost hear a collective “huh?” come out of them. I am all for the United States wanting to raise the educational experience and outcome of students across this great nation I call home. However, I didn’t expect educators feeling the way kindergartners feel when asked to spell “gingerbread”. Unfortunately, there’s no one to help educators self correct. They just have to wait for the test results.