I have been a third-grade teacher for 14 years and I am weary. Upon hearing this, one might jump to the conclusion that I would blame my weariness on difficult students, depleting funds, increasing class sizes, or added red tape. While all of these things are challenging and often frustrating, they are not the main reason for my exhaustion. The most daunting challenge I have faced to this point in my career as an educator is the publics opinion of education.
Last month I was listening to a radio talk show led by a very conservative host. I frequently listen to this radio program because I am very conservative and usually enjoy the information and views that I hear there. That days show topic was Common Core. My interest piqued and I listened intently. The host brought out some really good points about Common Core. He spoke of the rigorous new standards that are intended to better prepare students for college and careers in this 21st century, globally competitive society.
My thinking was, He understands Common Core. Then his next comment was, But did you know that teachers are no longer going to be teaching your children to write? Thats right, students will not be taught to print or write cursive anymore. And this is the point that brought on immediate and overwhelming exhaustion.
I would like to clear up this common misconception about Common Core. The standards that are being implemented in the schools of Idaho are called the Idaho Core Standards. According to the Idaho Department of Education, Idaho is ultimately in control of these standards. Idaho will review these standards every five years just as it reviews standards in other subject areas. Each state has the flexibility to add on to these standards if it sees fit. Idaho, for example, already has passed a resolution to consider adding cursive writing as a standard in the elementary grades. The Idaho State Board of Education will consider that this year. In addition local school boards have the flexibility to add on to these standards at the local level as well.
The Idaho Core Standards explicitly state under the Conventions of Standard English Standard 1.a. that kindergartners print many upper- and lowercase letters and Grade 1 students print all upper- and lowercase letters. In fact, at each elementary grade level, Standard 1 in Conventions of English Language states that students will demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking. We are teaching writing more rigorously in every subject of the curriculum than it has ever been taught in my career spanning 20 years.
As educators in Cassia County, we have been instructed that the Idaho Core Standards are the basic minimum requirements that should be taught to mastery. They do not exclude or mandate how these standards should be taught. We are entrusted, as we always have been, to use our best professional judgment and years of experience to determine how to teach these standards.
Any educator worthy of the title teacher knows that reading and writing cannot and should not be taught in isolation regardless of a set of written standards. Teachers will continue to do what they have always done; they will teach the most essential and basic skills to the children of this state in a professional and responsible manner. They will continue to protect and nurture and do all they can to prepare Idaho children for the future.
For those who are truly concerned about the implementation of the Idaho Core Standards, please visit your childs school. Ask to read the Common Core standards. There are copies in every classroom. Take time to observe your childs classroom and see for yourself what is truly happening there.
Mitton teaches at Oakley Elementary School in the Cassia School District.