At the beginning of the school year, I start off my class with a quote. In my best orator voice, I exclaim, “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated but the winner of the science fair. We need to teach them that success is not a function of fame or PR but of hard work and discipline.” President Obama said that in his 2011 State of the Union address.
I use this quote not only to inspire my students but also to remind myself of how necessary it is to promote science in our country.
Recently, however, this quote from just two years ago began feeling as if it had been dredged up from the history books. Instead of creating Super Bowl scientists, the Common Core State Standards Initiative seems to be asking me to put away my beakers, hang up my lab coat and crack open more nonfiction texts.
Conversations with peers who also teach science reveal that our courses are rapidly being converted into classes in which informational texts are read to support a nationwide shift in standards. Science educators are constantly asked: What can you do to support our students in highly tested subjects?
Personal experience reinforces this trend: My class periods have been chopped this year while reading, and math classes have been elongated significantly.
For anecdotal evidence, Google the words “science” and “Common Core.” Many of the search results are resources on how to teach nonfiction reading.
To allow for content, I wonder: Should I cut out that blood-typing lab or get rid of the week of hands-on gardening? Maybe this year my students don’t need to experience the bed of nails at the Maryland Science Center to teach them about forces. I could save a lot of time if I cut out their camping trip. Surely an informational text could show my students the same things they would take in while crabbing on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay.
Of course I won’t eliminate these incredible experiences from my plans this year.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am a proponent of Common Core standards, which have many benefits for students. I am also aware of excellent resources such as Project 2061 and Next Generation Science Standards, both of which promote hands-on learning. Today, however, many schools are systematically deprioritizing science, and it makes me uneasy about our nation’s future.
This teacher is a fool if he continues to support the Common Core standards and truly believes they have benefits for students.
He can't be much of a scientist either.
The evidence is all there for him to see - Common Core and the ancillary testing reforms that go with it force teachers of all subjects to focus only on what is tested, they turn every teacher into a literacy teacher and every class into an ELA class, they compel teachers to have to make choices between hands-on learning and real life skill lessons and the Endless Test prep that must be done in order to keep the school out of the turnaround specialists' hands - and yet he's still a supporter and proponent of Common Core.
Keep supporting Common Core and the education reform agenda that brought this to us, my friend, and you'll be consigned to teaching informational texts and literacy pods approved by the Gates Foundation in what's left of your science class.
And those class trips you dig taking your students on?
Yeah, no more time for that amid all the Endless Test Prep you have to do.
The point of the Common Core State (Sic) Standards is to cut all that stuff you love to teach out - the hands-on learning, the experimentation, the class trips, that "a-ha!" moment we teachers love to see kids have - and replace it with rote learning, test prep drills and endless tests.
Alas, this science teacher doesn't see the evidence right in front of his nose.
Sometimes I read things some teachers write and I think, this person is too stupid to teach anything.