Tuesday, November 24, 2015

   Common Core state standards include two sets of K-12 academic standards that outline what students are expected to learn in English Language Arts and in Mathematics. The stated goal is to make students “college and career-ready”. Common Core is a hot topic in our education system, especially here in New York State. Our Governor has implemented the Common Core curriculum these past few years. In my opinion, Common Core is a great way to get kids critically thinking and problem solving at a young age. Many parents believe this new system is too difficult for kids to do, however I believe this is only true for the students who did not start out learning in this type of way. For students already in their fourth or fifth year of school, they've been accustomed to the way of learning that they started out school with. In these cases, the problem isn't the Common Core curriculum itself, rather it is the way it has been implemented. In my opinion, Common Core should have started with the new classes coming into kindergarten and followed them up rather than forcing kids who are already accustomed to a different learning style to learn the Common Core way.

In the link below, parents speak out about common core. Also, take the survey to submit your views on common core.

Go to this link:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

While I find the actual content of the SATs and ACTs to be effective, I find the companies that produce them to be quite corrupt. To do well on the SATs, students have the option to buy materials to study with. The books, classes, all of these are very expensive and could potentially cause financial hardship for many families. Also, the actual costs of taking these tests is rather expensive. Clearly, if a wealthy student wanted to do well on this test, they have all the resources available to them to do so. However, if a student simply can’t afford to buy a study book, take a prep class, or retake the test multiple time, then they are at a disadvantage to other students. If this test is to be truly fair and standardized, then it should allow for all students to be at the same level of play. Favoring wealthy students is not the way to provide for a fair and reliable test.

Now, the way we test:
  Standardized testing - just these two words can make students tremble with fear. The SAT, ACT, APs, all of these are examples of standardized tests. I believe, in many cases, standardized testing is an accurate representation of a student’s aptitude and ability. The critical thinking skills that are necessary to do well on the SAT and ACT are also necessary in the real world, and almost any job. However, while I do believe these tests are valid measures of a student’s ability, I believe the way students are prepared for them is unfortunate. Again, in school we are geared towards getting a high GPA - memorizing information for a test and forgetting it a week later. In this process, the student never learns the critical thinking and problem solving skills that are necessary to do well on standardized tests. This is why many students in the American education system find it difficult to get above a 1400 on the SAT or a 23 on the ACT, simply because they were never expected to exercise the skills required for these tests in their high school careers. If we don’t encourage our students to indulge on their interests, if we are always stuck on the rubric, if we only focus on the test, then our students’ standardized testing scores will reflect that.

 In my experience, the one activity that has truly taught me how to think is Mock Trial. In Mock Trial, we still have to learn a lot of information. However, we are not formally tested on this information. Rather, we have to know how to use it. The rules of evidence, standards of civility, case law, and procedures are all elements of a trial. We are challenged to think on our feet and apply what we've learned in court. This, I find, is a much more effective way of learning a subject, as I have probably learned more from Mock Trial than I have from any class my school has to offer.

Project based learning seems to be an effective method of teaching, as it accustoms students to solving problems in groups. The critical thinking skills students can develop from project based learning are necessary skills for all professional careers or any setting in which you are working with other people. Since students are only learning how to remember and regurgitate information back onto a test, how will they be able to solve actual problems they face in their lives? For example, we rely on our doctors to cure diseases with new research methods, we rely on our architects to provide safer homes for us when an environmental disaster threatens our safety, and yet we’re not creating a new generation that can build on these professions at a higher level of thinking. If all students are simply just trying to get a high GPA, how are they supposed to be inspired to learn new things, or to take the initiative to really understand something that interests them? They simply don’t have time for their own hobbies, which is truly a loss for humanity. Think of all the things young people could become if they simply indulged on their hobbies and extended their creativities. In a perfect world, we would have students learning how to think critically to solve real world problems so they can later become successful and make a difference in the world.

Watch the video to see how project based learning WORKS!:

Watch the video below to see Obama's take on our education system:

Basically, I believe students should not be expected to achieve the same academic success regardless of their inclinations or ability. The way we teach in America has long been built around the test. In high school, students are expected to memorize material which they will later spit back onto a multiple choice or long answer question. Some of this material, students retain. However, we only retain a very small portion of it. The amount of information students are expected to memorize is in such large quantities that the average student will cram for a test and then forget the material a week or two later. In my experience, this notion has proven true. I have found that school has taught me how to get good grades, and not necessarily how to think.

There are many flaws in our education system today. I believe it is important for the public to understand these flaws and create their own opinions on the matter. The most general flaws are the methods of teaching and the methods of testing. In most cases, the two go hand in hand.