Here we are, in the middle of March madness. No, it’s not the Big East that I’m referring to. It’s the madness every public school third-grader and their parents, guardians, caregivers and teachers are going through as the students prepare for the New York State Common Core test that will be administered in less than a month. Controversy has been swirling about this test since the beginning, and as the PTA holds sessions advising parents on how they may opt out of the test, others are busy hiring tutors.
My daughter Julia attends a public school in Manhattan that follows the progressive model of education. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the best way to describe progressive education in two words is touchy-feely, or if you prefer, warm and fuzzy. The belief is children learn best by being immersed in a subject and by being hands-on. This level of participation allows them to express themselves through the subject matter, which then translates into learning.
Ok, so far so good, but wait, it doesn’t stop there.
The model also professes that children become better adjusted mentally and emotionally by being able to express every feeling the moment they feel it, while they are busy immersing themselves. An example would be instead of sitting at a desk with pencil and paper in hand in a science class, the children will write a play about the subject matter, complete with costumes, scenery and music. Then there is the performance, which you simply must attend, followed by the “after-party.”
Another tidbit about progressive education: There is very little homework (and with the homework they do get, why bother?), no tests and no grades (only narratives). The belief is less stress and school is fun, and I admit, it is. All of the children are happy and want to go to school forever. However, now (just like life one day) Common Core, aka the big, bad wolf, comes along, ruining the party, and hence the madness begins.
You can only imagine my surprise when Julia came home this week and said she had a problem with one of the homework questions and asked for my help. “Sure,” I said, “Of course.” How bad could this be? And she whipped out an 18-page booklet of homework assignments filled with examples of what to expect on the Common Core test. I was speechless. Because she had never been given any reading comprehension assignments, I was shocked when the first question posed was, you guessed it, based on reading comprehension. In all fairness, the children do a lot of reading in class. In fact, the teacher reads to them every day, and at the conclusion, the children draw pictures expressing their interpretation of what the teacher has read. All are given praise and encouragement for their drawing skills and use of imagination.
Our saving grace is that Julia spent her kindergarten year at St. Benedict’s, where her teachers were Ms. Petit, Ms. Powell and Ms. Ramseur. The class learned to read, write and do basic arithmetic; had homework every night consisting of a few math problems and three vocabulary words for which they had to write two sentences each; and had a spelling test every Friday. Fortunately for our community, Ms. Petit holds Saturday morning classes at St. Aloyisus, and Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Powell now teach at St. Charles.
But back to the question. I decided to go to the beginning, back to page one and cover the nuances of reading comprehension, the higher concepts of multiplication (Do you know what the cumulative factor is?) and, oh no, quelle dommage, fractions!
So here we are, ready to immerse ourselves in traditional education that, I can assure you, traditional (as opposed to progressive) private school children are all too adept at.
So what is my take on the Common Core and will I opt out? No, I will not opt out. I believe children should be taught to prepare themselves for tests, because life is full of them. Third grade is the perfect time for them to acquire the discipline to study, prepare, relax and walk into the test with confidence. It’s a good time for them to begin to learn their strengths and weaknesses and know they have plenty of time to develop and what will be required of them to succeed in life. On the other hand, the logic behind some of the questions is too advanced for a third-grader. Even I had to stop and give thought to what was really being asked to arrive at the answer. This pause comes from far more experience than a 9-year-old has.
I won’t get into the politics of our public school educational system, but the Common Core test questions are a reflection of what the public school curriculum should be right from the first day of school. By third grade, our children should know this material, and if not, why not? Stay tuned, the saga continues.
Happy birthday, Darren Palmer and Spike Lee, and happy first day of spring. We made it. The Associates Committee of the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center hosted the 24th annual Bunny Hop fundraiser. The event, sponsored by Gucci, raised more than $315,000 to benefit the Department of Pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The venue, festively decorated with papier-mache carrots hanging from the ceiling, featured a live petting zoo, cupcake decorating by Tastebuds Kitchen, Magic Al, Todd’s Twisted Balloon Art, stilt walkers and face painters from Bongar Biz, Wendy the Pipe Cleaner Lady and performances from the Big Apple Circus.
Speaking of circus, the Big Apple Soul Circus is coming to town. Here’s a novel idea: Why can’t we have an event like this for our hospital in our community, for our families, friends and supporters?
Did you know that 2015 marks 150 years since the end of chattel slavery in America and 100 years since the death of Booker T. Washington, former slave turned famous educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute, later Tuskegee University? Sarah Washington O’Neal Rush, great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, continues on a mission to incite hope and create positive change, especially among women, college students, urban youth, educators, counselors and social workers, and with her latest book “Rising Up From the Blood: A Legacy Reclaimed, A Bridge Forward,” she is doing just that. With the commencement of the rainy season, a good book might just be what you need to curl up with, and this book could just be it.
Until next week … kisses.