Posted in Ramblings

Soapbox: CCSS and Idiocy

Warning: I’m on a soapbox for this. Almost nobody reads my blog, so I’m probably throwing this into the digital ether, but this is going to make me feel better, so I’m going to have my say.

I’ve been holding off for a while because I’m trying not to be political, but these dumb-ass memes going around about Common Core math are, well, stupid. I see things like this:

Common Core Crap Meme

…And I want to scream. Most of the time I roll my eyes and keep scrolling, but ignorance really pisses me off and these memes are like the flu–their sickness just gets passed from one person to the next. This isn’t Common Core math. CCSS (Common Core State Standards) do NOT include teaching strategies. They’re a set of standards that way what students will be able to do. They list what students should be able to use, determine, apply, extend thinking, understand, explain. Here’s second grade standard: Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve one- and two-step word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.1″

BEST PRACTICES: Years of studies about teaching and learning have resulted in an evolving set of what’s called “best practices.” This goes beyond the logical “establish positive relationships with students” to provide detailed recommendations and lesson ideas for teaching concepts. There are detailed Developmental Progression charts, lists of evidence to look for that indicate a child has achieved understanding, recommendations for lessons, and suggestions for different ways to implement those lessons. These teaching strategies are what everybody seems to be the most pissed about, but they’re confusing them for CCSS, and they’re confusing themselves (untrained as educators) with people who have 4-7 years of higher education and practical classroom experience. Here’s a link to best practices documents. (Hint: click on the “best practices” link.)

And here’s a paragraph from the 7th grade intro that gives an overview of a topic: “Students extend their understanding of ratios and develop understanding of proportionality to solve single- and multi-step problems. Students use their understanding of ratios and proportionality to solve a wide variety of percent problems, including those involving discounts, interest, taxes, tips, and percent increase or decrease. Students solve problems about scale drawings by relating corresponding lengths between the objects or by using the fact that relationships of lengths within an object are preserved in similar objects. Students graph proportional relationships and understand the unit rate informally as a measure of the steepness of the related line, called the slope. They distinguish proportional relationships from other relationships.”

Note the number of different ways students are taught to approach the problem. The purpose of this is to teach deeper and alternate thinking strategies. Why? Because when one strategy isn’t getting you to the solution, it’s a good idea to have backup strategies. This isn’t just a MATH lesson; it’s a LIFE lesson. The definition of stupid is when you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. CCSS are trying to combat stupid.

What else is stupid? The fact that just because some adults can’t figure out what the hell is going on with those two solving methods, they think one is invalid. NEWSFLASH: If your kid can understand both methods, they’re smarter than you. That’s right, your worst fears have come true: You’re not smarter than a second grader. Just because you can’t figure out the methodology and its applications doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Chances are, you aren’t the one who figured out how to write programming for Facebook either. Maybe your kid will be able to figure that out using the problem-solving strategies and thinking skills they learned in math class. Be happy that they will have better chances for success in life. Instead of bitching about crap you don’t bother to try to understand, investigate it. Try to figure it out. Or ask a second grader for help.

Another stupid thing: Teachers are left with the responsibility of defending CCSS. This stems from the common misconception that teachers are just glorified parents/babysitters. We’re not. We learned our content area to a depth you didn’t so that we could teach it in a variety of ways to a variety of learners. You need to trust that teachers know what they’re doing. If they don’t, then it’s the principal’s job to remove them. Idiocy becomes apparent very quickly when you put a person in front of a group of kids. (But those stories are for another post.)

And the last bit of stupidity: CCSS were put together by a NON-partisan group of PEOPLE WHO KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING. They looked at state standards around the country, especially those in successful states and districts. They compared those with standards from around the world. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but the same way you can chat with someone on the other side of the world online, those people are now part of the global community–and you’re all competing for the same jobs. To not make our kids smarter than us (or just you–I’m pretty damn smart), is to do them a disservice. So educate yourselves parents, and not by reading or watching political crap.

Here’s a link to the CCSS website. It’s very easy to navigate. Please visit this in lieu of posting idiotic memes. Someone famous once said, “Seek knowledge and you may escape ignorance.” Or not. I might have made that last part up, but it’s a good quote anyway.

This has been my PSA of the summer. <Steps off soapbox and returns to writing romantic suspense.>


I’m Michele Zurlo, author of over 20 romance novels. During the day, I teach English, and in the evenings, romantic tales flow from my fingertips.

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