Education reform in America is a maze of confusion, filled with conflicting interests, failed ideologies, and inconsistent support. As a result, the educational experience taints and robs children, particularly inner city children, of a fair chance to succeed. To most educators, standardized testing is a fallacy. They are often faced with the challenge of whether standardized testing is a credible system or a false set of benchmarks that has taken our educational system drastically off course.
Teaching children to a test diminishes the true meaning of intelligence, creativity, and exploration. School districts expect classrooms to be industrial machines, and teachers are forced to find innovative means to prepare children for these agonizing exams. Administrators are pressured and teachers are at their wits end, forced to value state-mandated statistics above a quality learning experience. This is where Common Core Standards become an intricate part of the classroom experience.
The value of Common Core is critical to the success and plight of urban children. Too often, achievement gaps are caused by socioeconomic disparities in curriculum content and access to information. Politicians attempt to put a band-aid on the problem through standardized testing, while ignoring the deficiencies and inequities that are causing it. The question of whether 8-10 hours must be spent each day by educators to teach the very fundamental principles of mathematics and literacy must not be overruled by the fear of year-end evaluations. Educators should not be conflicted with what to teach, or even whom to teach. Children can no longer be viewed as statistics, but as individuals who are interconnected to the fate of our global economy. Current political rhetoric ensures access to quality education; however, current achievement gaps guarantee the continuity of the school-to-prison pipeline. Common Core can close these gaps by standardizing content, while allowing flexibility in delivery methods to ensure all students can learn, no matter what learning style or cultural background they may have.
Yes, full implementation of Common Core requires much more time, resources, and training, but what is the real bickering behind this remarkable educational agenda? Why is it that politicians would rather seek political gain, than do what they were elected to do—serve their constituents. After all, it is their reasonable service to push an agenda that affords every child an equal opportunity. Failure to do so not only affects individual students, but our national economy. American children are falling behind at an alarming rate, while children in other countries are being groomed in STEM to create the innovations of the future. Some say Common Core puts more stress on teachers, but which stress is worse? Should teachers face the stress of an extra summer of intense training to give students a shot at college, or the guilt of knowingly using an ineffective pedagogy that leads to near-irreparable learning gaps, and creates a pipeline directly from the classroom to the prison cell?
When will education protect the interests of our students instead of politicians, unions, and other interests? There must be buy-in from all parties to achieve education reform. Politicians who create legislation that allows flexibility in the classroom, promotes community engagement, and parental involvement will yield greater results. Teachers must choose to teach at all costs and demand the necessary tools to move their students forward. Will the focus of education reform shift from political opportunity and economic gain to a healthy job market for the next generation? Our children’s fate can no longer rest in the power of those who give lip service, yet have no intent to create real change.