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The Common Core Shift: The Time and Money Connection (Page 4/5)

The Common Core Shift:  Page 4/5

If our goal is to provide students with the best learning environment possible, if our goal is to make improvements in the education system, and if our goal is to give students an opportunity to be college and career ready, then we must stop misunderstanding and misinterpreting.  We must recognize Common Core as merely words on a page, not the next messiah.

We must honor one another and our roles in education.  We must not let edu-corporations and experts paint false images in our heads.  It may not be as exiting, shiny, or sexy to say, yet it must be stated.  Each of us knows and has known parental aspirations is the most significant key to this story.  None of use needs a study to prove that, none of us needs David Coleman to admit it, none of us needs an edu-corporation to sell us on it.  

Journalist and columnist Thomas Friedman stated it well, "In recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers.  But here’s what some new studies are also showing:  We need better parents.  Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.  Better parents can make every teacher more effective."

In "Back to School:  How parent involvement affects student achievement", Patte Barth demonstrated "getting parents involved with their children’s learning at home is a more powerful driver of achievement than parents attending P.T.A. and school board meetings, volunteering in classrooms, participating in fund-raising, and showing up at back-to-school nights."  To be sure, there is no substitute for a good teacher.  There is nothing more valuable than great classroom instruction.  Yet, let’s stop putting the whole burden on teachers.  We also need better parents.  Better parents can make every teacher more effective.

Ignoring, denying, and hiding these statistics is not helpful.  The authors of Common Core did not and do not address this issue in their initiative.  A real improvement in learning will happen when we as communities, states, and as a country recognize and act upon the fact that we are a nation of immigrants.  The immediate needs of food, housing, and medical care are obstacles that non-immigrant students do not face to the same extent.  What the authors of Common Core also ignores is the long understood process of acquiring language.  Before a student can do well on a state test, meet the standards of Common Core, earn a high school diploma, get into college, graduate college, or get a job, they must acquire the English language.

Students ages 8 to 11 are the fastest achievers, taking between two to five years.  Students ages 5 to 7 take three to 8 years, and those ages 12 to 15 have the most difficulty acquiring a new language.  These students take six to eight years.  Students in general need seven years to acquire enough English to reach national norms on standardized tests for reading, social studies, and science.  A major factor on acquiring English is a student’s schooling in their country of origin.  The better their previous education, the better a student does in their new country.  Professor and linguistics expert Stephen Krashen notes the importance of comprehensive input.  Students acquire English best when it is focused on relevant, interesting topics. 
Education and improving education has become highly challenging with so many stakeholders and various agendas.  Democrat and Republican politicians have their own agendas and preferences for how and what students should learn.  Politicians utilize their networking skills to stay in office, relying upon close relationships with union bosses and educational corporations.  These edu-corporations produce educational materials, textbooks, tests, and standards, and trainings.  School board members are often caught between state and federal mandates, funding changes, and regulations.  These politicians also have their own educational philosophies and political campaigns to win.  Superintendents also have many masters and may feel deserving of salaries higher than the president of the United States.

Parents that place their children in private schools or that live in healthy, high aspiring neighborhoods look over at public schools and shake their heads.  Often not realizing the substantial differences in schools, between those with students whose parents pay for tutors, who have high aspirations for their children, and who work very hard to have healthy homes and those that do not.  To complicate matters more we have a number of parents that desire schools be circuses to keep their children entertained.

The film Two Million Minutes contrasts Brittany's and Neil's easy suburban lives with those of two Indian teenagers and two Chinese teenagers, making the case that the foreign students are just plain hungrier for success.  "You just want to shake America and say, 'Wake up. We are falling behind daily,' " Compton says.  And Two Million Minutes finds plenty to be worried about: not enough study or homework time, not enough parental pressure, not enough focus on math or engineering.  American teens, he argues, are preoccupied with sports, after-school jobs and leisure.  The film repeatedly contrasts foreign students' drive with what seems like American cluelessness:  In one scene, Chinese 17-year-old Hu Xiaoyuan diligently practices the violin — then we cut to bone-crunching rock 'n' roll and the Friday night lights of Carmel's top-ranked football team.


There are other pieces of the puzzle we need to look at to get a full picture of education in the United States.  Economic decisions play a significant role in academic growth, graduation rates, and college entrance.  Professor of Sociology Sean F. Reardon demonstrated that student performance is partly tied to how money is spent at home.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.  We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school.  There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.

My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality.  It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently.  This is where things get really interesting.  High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success.  They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich."

Testing Errors and Parent Guide...

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