Marina Ratner, an award winning Math professor from Cal Berkeley, had an op-ed piece in the August 6, 2014 Wall Street Journal describing the shortcomings of the Common Core standards for Math education.
If you haven’t read this commentary, it has an interesting perspective. Ratner feels that the Common Core is lowering standards, and is requiring Math (and other subjects) to be taught using a pictures and visual recipes rather than more traditional techniques. If you can’t draw the picture, you get a lower grade.
While I’ll leave the discussion of the standards to those who have studied the issue more deeply, I can’t let the standardization of teaching techniques pass without comment.
The biggest problem I’m finding with trying to standardize education (both at the K-12 and secondary levels) is we are not letting the teachers teach.
The Common Core should be about standards. What do we what the students to know, and how do we want them to be able to apply this knowledge?
The Common Core should not be scripting how to teach. As students have individual learning styles, teachers have individual teaching styles.
If we’ve scripted “the” technique for teaching a particular subject, and that script isn’t right, or doesn’t align with the style of the individual instructor, it’s not going to work.
There’s more than one way to get the desired learning outcomes, and we need to allow our teachers to take different paths to these outcomes.
We can always provide ideas or examples of how subjects (such as math) might be taught. These should be part of the toolbox, not the only tool.
Teachers and professors are hired as education and subject matter experts. Give them the tools and then get out of the way and let them teach.