“Can you help me with my homework?”
For parents, this question is a rite of passage. The responsibility of helping a child with his or her homework is as synonymous with parenting as letting go of the bicycle seat so they can pedal on their own.
But in the age of the Common Core, assisting young students is becoming more of an issue. The way past generations were taught math and English, through “drill and kill” curriculum that focuses on memorization, is vastly different from the way many students are being taught today, which involves problem-solving and applying concepts instead of plugging in formulas. So when parents go to help their children with homework, they often don’t have the methods to arrive at the same conclusions.
The Beef with Common Core Reading
Many parents are used to little blending when it comes to subjects. For example, U.S. history timelines and texts are taught in history class; grammar and vocabulary are taught in English/language arts classes. The Common Core wants to change this longstanding concept.
ELA Common Core (English Language Arts) aims to fuse different subjects so they bleed into each other. For example, students in English class may be taught about synonyms by analyzing text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), combining English and social sciences. While this doesn’t mean that English teachers will also be social studies and science teachers, it does mean that English teachers will include literary nonfiction in their lessons. One beef with Common Core Standards is that they only address math and reading—no other subjects. Incorporation of historical and science texts is one way the Common Core addresses this deficiency.
But what upsets parents and educators about Common Core Reading is that lessons can often seem very scripted, with little room for teachers to inject personality or self-connection into the classroom. Students are encouraged to do “cold readings” of historical texts like “The Gettysburg Address” in order to prepare for future standardized tests, without gaining any of the real history behind these texts.
The Beef with Common Core Math
Even though most core standards face scrutiny in the media and among parents, Common Core Reading doesn’t face the brunt of disapproval as much as Common Core Math does. Many Common Core Math problems have gone viral, with parents posting their frustrations over how to solve simple equations the “Common Core way.”
Naturally, since the Common Core Standards are designed to increase critical thinking, the new approach to math asks students to explain how they got to their conclusion instead of repeating formulas. So faced with a subtraction problem of 195 minus 77, students are asked to use visuals and even draw on paper in order to arrive at a conclusion instead of simply taking 77 from 195 in a typical one-on-top-of-the-other format. For parents accustomed to simple equations, this severely complicates what they are used to, making it challenging to help their children with homework.
But in addition to critical thinking, Common Core Math initiatives also exist with the goal for students to compete on more of an international level, since recent trends show that the United States lags behind East Asian and European countries when it comes to math and science.
Is Common Core Really to Blame?
While many parents blame Common Core as the center of the problem, others argue that it’s not the Common Core curriculum, but the implementation. Instead of the standards being rolled out gradually, many schools are pressured to meet requirements quickly, when their teachers and staff aren’t fully equipped to teach it the “Common Core way.” One reason why the Common Core was adopted by so many states was because each became eligible for $4.35 billion by joining, so many states adopted the standards without even seeing a draft of them.
Another argument states that it’s not the Common Core, but the curriculum chosen via the individual states. For example, some states choose curriculum from companies like Everyday Math and Singapore Math, and criticism of this form of “fuzzy math” predates the Common Core.
The Bottom Line
Many parents are against the Common Core because has taken away the basic ability to help children with homework. But ultimately, the goal of the standards is to help students think and learn on their own. Despite their good intentions, to parents, the Common Core places more pressure on the student, with Mom and Dad unable to come to the rescue.