The grass is always greener AND taller on the other side
Growing up, I was in charge of mowing our yard, my grandma’s yard, and my aunt and uncle’s yard—in addition to removing leaves, dead trees and/or animals, and many other character-building tasks. My mom, who was the chief executive officer presiding over the Landscaping and External Domicile Design Division, would say almost every Saturday from March through October, "The yards need to be mowed by the end of the day." Wise to my attempts to delay the inevitable and allergy-inducing task, she would follow up with, "I don’t care how you do it, as long as the yards are mowed by the end of the day."
Some days, before we had a riding lawn mower or if the riding lawn mower was being repaired, I would push mow the three yards. Other days, I would mix it up with part weed eater and part push mower. Some days, at the end of the growing season when garden patches were demoted to overgrown, weedy yard parts, I would even have to do the old scythe/lower mower combo.
The point is that my mom did not care how I mowed the yards. She offered a few pointers and general critiques, but for the most part, she was hands-off on the actual processes I employed to cut grass. The standard was, "The yards need to be mowed by the end of the day." If they were, the standard was met. If they were not, the standard was not met.
Here’s another standard: Count to 100 by ones and by 10s.
This standard comes from the Common Core State Standards initiative and applies to kindergarten students under the counting and cardinality category. So if I am a kindergarten teacher or the parent of a kindergartner (which I am, by the way), I know one of the expectations of my students or children. I can achieve this standard in pretty much any way I wish. At our house, we don’t pretend that "school subjects" are separated. When we talk about counting to 100 by ones and by 10s, we are also talking about art, science, language arts, sports, etc. And that is OK, as long as our kindergartner is achieving the standard. The teacher has this same freedom. As long as the kindergartners leave her tutelage being able to count to 100 by ones and 10s, all is well as far as that standard is concerned. Sometimes, she will use worksheets; and sometimes, she will use manipulatives (straws, popsicle sticks, beans, clay, etc.). She will talk some students through the process, while others will need a different kind of cajoling.
For numerous reasons, the Common Core State Standards have been experiencing some demonization. There is so much misinformation about them that there is even a "myth/fact" sheet in circulation. This misunderstanding and mischaracterization of the standards is worrisome because we are at a pivotal point in our nation’s history. Not only are there questions about our students being able to compete in and contribute to a global marketplace, but there are also locally generated questions and concerns. Business owners are often unhappy with the kind of workers they get, and some jobs go unfilled or have to be "retrofitted" for workers who are not prepared.
Student learning AND student achievement
One of the things the Common Core State Standards are designed to do is provide students and educators with more opportunities for developing thinking skills and metacognitive strategies. The tasks demanded of students within the standards call for higher-order thinking skills. Some critics of the standards fail to recognize the nature of higher-order thinking skills. Some say the standards leave important things out, when in reality, those things are imbedded or integrated into the more complex standards. Lower-order skills are, by default, prerequisites for attainment of the higher-order skills.
Follow the links and cut the grass
If you want to make an informed decision about the new standards, I urge you to visit the myths versus facts page. In addition, this PBS segment is accessible and informative about the state's Common Core Standards.
The weeds are growing, and the grass is unruly. It’s time to mow the yard. It doesn’t matter how we do it, as long as it gets done.
Keith White is PEF Chattanooga’s director of research and effectiveness. Feel free to reach out to him by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.