Thursday, September 19, 2013

Today's Fix for Education!

So yesterday I was sitting through a meeting of the Governor's Task Force on the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. We spent the day being brought up to speed on the current Iowa Core Science Standards... their inception, intention, and development. I listened for many hours to the reasons that the standards were made, continued to refine my opinions of the feasibility of the standards, and their merit with respect to the NGSS. 

It was during a panel discussion with some of the writers of the standards that something occurred to me. It was a simple idea, common sense really, but so foreign to today's thinking that it was almost incomprehensible. 

The panel was discussing the elementary standards (something I am fairly well versed in even though I teach high school). They mentioned that they banded them to grade bands, and made them a progression, but limited in content due to the fact that elementary teachers have so many other things to worry about on top of science. For a moment I thoughtfully placed myself in the shoes of one of these elementary teachers. These are a group of people who work very hard with challenging kids, teaching them to read, add, think, spell, write, and grow into young adults. They are being pulled in so many ways that if I were them, there would be no way I would be able to keep anything straight, let along try to adopt new standards every few years. 

Why do we have separate standards in elementary for literacy, math, science, social studies, and all the others. Why don't we just have one set of standards that encompass all of these. For middle school and high school it makes sense to break standards into disciplines because we teach specific content areas. Why do we throw all of these different documents at our elementary teachers when they only have like 15 minutes of prep at a time. I believe that learning could be much more integrated in the younger levels if someone took the time to COMPLETELY ALIGN their standards. My son came home with a math problem the other day where he was supposed to read a histogram of kid's heights in a mystical class from his math book. Why could he have not done an experiment to take that data himself, plotted it, and tried to draw conclusions about age and height? I will tell you why... that is science and he was learning math!

I am not saying that teachers do not try to integrate this as much as they can; I think they do. I just think that if we write the documents for the standards in one form, they will not tend to split them off. I would hate to try to master all of those documents. Why not just have one?

Maybe I am completely out of my area here, but I think it is possible. I realize that different committees made each of the common core standards for each discipline, but why can't they talk to each other? Make the standards seamless, easy to use, and adaptable. Then let teachers find creative ways to meet them.

What do you think? I am off here?