Common Core Kills Love of Reading: Anonymous UT Student Teacher’s Story

by an anonymous Utah student teacher
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Last semester I worked in a first grade classroom as part of a class I was I was taking at Utah Valley University.  The teacher said she could do more teaching if she didn’t have to do so much Common Core testing, so she had me do the testing.  These children have 4 packets, 20-25 pages each, they have to get through during the year.   Part of this is a list of 100 words, 400 for the year, they need to know by sight.  As I was testing, one little boy he stopped and said, “I don’t like words.  I don’t like reading.  I don’t like books.”
My heart broke.
apple books
I went to our library here in town and checked out as many books as I could.  I went back to school every day and pulled him out of class to read just one book to him.   At first he was hesitant because he thought he was going to have to read to me. Eventually he relaxed and started enjoying.  He got so he would even turn the pages on occasion. We read one book, “The Red Book,” which has no words in it.  You make up the story yourself. When we finished I asked him if he’d rather read a book like this or would he rather have a book with the words already there.
He preferred a book with words in it.  This went on for several weeks.
book and kite
Then they had a reading competition in the classroom. On Friday whoever read the most books that week got to wear the pirate hat.  I came in one Friday and he was wearing the pirate hat.
I was thrilled.pirate
Since then it has occurred to me that I should talk to the principal.  How would he feel if someone came into his office and tested him regularly, and often, to see whether he is making any progress, getting everything done that he should do, etc.?  He would probably quit his job if he was under such testing regulations, and still they put these little kids through all this stress.
Stress-at-work
This teacher has eighteen students.  Within a week I could tell which six children were working above grade level, which 6 children were working at grade level, and which 6 children were working below grade level.  This was simply from my observations, not from any testing I was doing.  Six children took the assignments and whizzed through them.  Six children took the assignments and worked through them, but eventually they got there.  Six children got very little of the assignments done without help, and in some cases a lot of help.  Obviously, Common Core upsets me.  I’m sure there is some good there, and there are good intentions, but they are way off base.

17 thoughts on “Common Core Kills Love of Reading: Anonymous UT Student Teacher’s Story”

  1. I would like to point out that no first graders take a “common core” or SAGE assessment in first grade. They do have to take a reading assessment per the state legislatures for SB 150. This bill was passed before any of the Common Core and SAGE assessment began. Please follow the link for the bill http://le.utah.gov/~2010/bills/static/SB0150.html

    This bill is to determine who is and is not on reading level. This can only be done via a reading assessment. I would think that any parent would like to know how well their child is doing, especially in reading. I would hate for a teacher to just tell me that they think my child is on, below, or above reading level without some sort of actual proof.

    As far as the amount of testing and the frequency that is up to the school or district. So, I would think that would speak toward “local control”. I guess you can argue that SB 150 dictates the frequency ,and that is only 3 times year. Is 3 times within a year too much? I guess that could be up for debate but that was not what this post was indicating.

    So, for this UVU student I would like for her to fully understand what she/he is claiming prior to writing a post on this. If she had a problem with the frequency of the assessment and what is was doing to the students she/he could have done the following: talk to the teacher, talk to the principal, talk to her field supervisor or whomever sent her over to that class, read current scientific articles on child development and assessment. If she was in such disagreement with the frequency why did she blame the Common Core? Does she not know what the common core is? The CC does not prescribe the frequency of any assessment. That is up to local leaders to decide. Again please review your facts before posting.

    On a side note, I would hate for a student teacher to tell me what level my Kinder or 2nd grader is reading on without some formal observation tool/assessment being used. It is like if I was to go to a student-nurse and she says based on my experience you have this illness and she never did any type of test to actually see what I had.

    1. I am not familiar with all the legal-ese, but I do know that last year my Kindergartener had a “test” of either reading or math concepts about every other week.
      The tests had to be administered one-to-one. As I helped out in class, which all the parents were urged to do via sign-up sheets at the beginning of the year, sometimes I was asked to give the tests, pulling kids away from what the rest of the class was working on. There was usually one, sometimes two parents, the teacher and a part-time aide there so the kids could get through everything they were supposed to do.
      That testing was a LOT, very time consuming, and my daughter came home more than once in tears because she didn’t get 100% and the usual sticker for a free hamburger from a local restaurant. (I those gimmicks, btw, just another way businesses are using the school system to make money.)

      1. That is sad to see that your child is being tested on such a regular basis. I would say that is way too much. I would say that is what the school, district, and maybe even the teacher feels like they need to do. I would suggest talking with the school and see why the feel like this frequent testing is helping them meet your child’s need. I would think that they, as professionals, would be able to answer your question/concerns.

        I would hate for my own daughter to go through that experience…and in fact I had a child that did experience that…and that was pre CC implementation. I spoke to the teacher and we had a great conversation and things actually did change.I felt like I did make a positive difference and helped to ensure that we maintained local control.

        Again, I am so sorry to hear that experience with a child. That makes me sad. I

  2. Thanks for posting Mark. It appears the student teacher got from the actual teacher that there was too much Common Core testing going on so I don’t blame the student teacher if that’s incorrect. I’m not sure if this teacher had other obligations to use CC tests, or what the local school had chosen to do but she obviously felt that some type of assessment was hindering her ability to work directly with the children that needed additional help. I do believe we over-assess our children. I also agree with a comment that state school board candidate Joel Wright made that we need to correct the stigma of children being at different skill levels in the same grade and allow for children to be with children of other ages, whether above or below them in a particular skill area. It makes more sense to me to allow for children to be with similarly skilled students and work at their own pace. Children are gifted differently and every teacher has students who are above or below grade level.

  3. Reading the student teacher’s comments again, this could be a form of Common Core testing going on. It’s not SAGE testing, but with Common Core fully implemented, this may just be the first grade unit’s assessments for the classrooms that may be extremely frustrating to some children.

  4. **”I would think that any parent would like to know how well their child is doing, especially in reading. I would hate for a teacher to just tell me that they think my child is on, below, or above reading level without some sort of actual proof.”

    It seems to me that any parent who cares, could just sit down and read with their child and they will know within 5 minutes how well their child is doing in reading.

    1. Shanon,

      That is true, any parent who cares could sit down with their child and know how well their child is doing. I would argue that most parents who do care about their child sits down and read with their child on a regular basis.

      However, would any parent know how well their child is doing compared to other students their age? Would any parent who cares have the experience and knowledge of determining if their child is really on grade level. Can any parent who cares even define what “on level means”? Could any parent who cares compare their child to a set of standards that will lead them to be successful when they are older? Could any parent who cares know what on “grade level” is for each grade a child progresses through? Could any parent who cares know how to help diagnose what reading strategy/skill their child needs to learn in order to progress? It is through a diagnostic or an assessment that allows the teacher to determine what specific areas in reading a student is struggling in and then use appropriate instructional strategies to best help the child become a better reader.

      I am not saying that teachers should assess weekly or daily or even monthly. I am saying that it is wise for a teacher to use an appropriate tool to determine what a child knows and doesn’t know. This may only occur once a year or maybe once every few months. I don’t think we need to over react and make assessments to be evil, and I am not saying you are. I would argue the frequency of giving the assessment but not assessments as a whole or a set of standards that do not dictate the frequency of assessments.

      I would like to mention that if any parent who cares to sit down with their child for 5 minutes and listen to their child read to see how well their child is doing…is doing what a teacher is doing….assessing the child’s reading.

  5. Its a sad day when any person feels that they must anonymously post their views to the world. What does it say about our country….. let alone the teaching profession? We used to live in a country where peoples views were encouraged, respected, and at least debatable on the public square. Especially when it involved our children’s health and education. Now a teacher or student teacher fears for their grade and or livelihood. I am not the greatest fan of what our public schools have become. They under perform many other first world Nations and even some lessor Nations in academic achievement. But by far the biggest problem is not the education of our children, however important that may be. If a teacher can’t even speak out when wrongs need to be righted, then we truly have lost our freedom.

    The sleeping citizenry has no clue what comes next. They will be shocked when they find real chains enslave them. I post a quote from Samuel Adams who, as a founding father of our nation, must be rolling in his grave knowing what has happened to our once great nation.

    “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

    If the trained professionals we pay to teach our children for seven hours a day five days a week can’t even publicly voice their opinion about such an important topic, even when it goes against the Federal, State, or local School districts mandates, then we truly have lost not only the battle but also the war. We live in a totalitarian environment where speaking out against what we see as wrong has become politically incorrect and sometimes jeopardizes our standing, station, employment, and at times can be deemed hate speech prosecuted by law. Wrong is right and right is wrong.

    I will leave you with one more quote from Mr. Adams:

    “A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”

  6. I read an article that was along this thread to my daughter who just turned eighteen. The link was in one of Oak’s emails. Her comment summed it up well she said “why ban books when you can make people hate to read”.

  7. Mark Smith said “This bill is to determine who is and is not on reading level. This can only be done via a reading assessment.”

    This student teacher could tell where each child was through simple observation. If they didn’t have to waste time on assessments like that, they could spend even more time teaching, which would be a far better way for some of these kids to get ahead.

    Assessments tell us where a kid is. Teaching helps a kid rise above the level they are currently at. So what is more important? Do we just want to know where a kid is at so we can pigeonhole them throughout their school career and beyond, or do we want to teach them. There aren’t enough hours in the day for all of it.

    1. Rebecca,

      I agree with you on your view of assessment, in the sense that assessment tells what a child “is” and it is through teaching that teachers can help “rise above the level”. My point was that it is not the common core that is dictating the frequency of the assessment or even how to assess. Rather that SB 150 was in law prior to the common core. It was in response to Utah parents that wanted to know if their child in grades 1-3 was on level. Again it was through our elected officials that made this choice. Now, I am not too sure who all voted for this bill. I do know that this bill was created in response to how elected local officials thought education should be ran. Should we allow elected state officials make these kind of decisions or should we take it to a more “local” level and let each individual district or school make that kind of decision?

      I guess I am really challenging is it the CC that has “killed the love of reading” through assessment or was it our local state leaders that created a bill prior to the CC being implemented in our state? Before we start to place blame on something I think we should look at all of the perspectives.

      1. Who should determine level? Every child is different. Every class is comprised of children who span 4-6 grade levels. It’s stupid the way we organize children into classes according to their date of birth and expect them all to do the same thing at the same level as others who are developing in different ways at different speeds.

        1. I am not disputing the definition of “on level”. I am pointing out it is our state legislatures that want to know who is on level. They have made this decision through SB 150…again it is through requests from the public that our local state government made this bill. Again this bill was created prior to implementation of the CC. So…who should we ask to change this assessment? Is it because of the CC, I would argue that it is not because it was created prior to our state adopting the CC.

          So who is really killing the love of reading? Is it the CC or our state legislatures?

          I will state again…it is not the CC that dictates the amount of assessment that occurs. If a child is being testing weekly using a system that is up to the local school and or district. It is not the CC and not even the state..as in the case of Darla’s post.

          1. Mark, I agree it is the legislature causing much of the problem. But it is also the state school board. Compulsory education is the root of the problem. If we have a “free public education” system that is compulsory in statute, accountability becomes the rally cry to enact draconian policies that hamstring our teachers and give our children so much anxiety. That said, Common Core is the most all-encompassing, destructive agenda to have been proposed thus far. It makes NCLB look like pre-school toys. It’s far more than just standards and it is designed to dumb down our children.

  8. Way to go!!!

    I don’t know of any teacher educators who would recommend teaching literacy through the use of packets. I have had multiple conversations with colleagues at the institution where I teach teachers and there is a general consensus (among Common Core advocates AND opponents) that the best way to teach vocabulary (words) is within authentic contexts of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. We also tend to agree that students’ love for reading is primary. Teaching via information packets is poor teaching, period, even when the aim is SAGE test preparation.

    Case in point: My son has been doing packets (guided notes) in 7th grade science–rather low-level stuff. I tried the sample SAGE test online at USOE. What an eye-opener! There is no way he is going to be prepared for that test by doing packets. He needs do be actively involved in authentic science processes. Of course, like so many others, I came to this conclusion prior to reviewing the SAGE test and, despite its attempts to test higher order processes, I still think standardized testing is destructive overall.

  9. Much of what is required in classrooms these days is test prep. Testing should be used to guide a teacher’s next steps in the classroom. It should not be used to rank students or teachers. A test is a snapshot in time. It is not an end all. The biggest problem I see with this regime is the idea that my first grade student’s test scores will determine how well they will succeed in life some twelve years in the future. It’s ludicrous. Testing has its limitations. Remember when your children began to walk? Some walked at nine months, many at twelve and even some as late as eighteen months. These are all within normal parameters. This is also true for understanding cardinality, one to one correspondence and many reading skills. I find it interesting that other countries do not teach reading before age seven. Their national scores are higher than ours. While we are teaching early reading and math skills, what developmental needs are we ignoring? I had the opportunity to work in one of these high pressure preschools about eight years ago. I spent a whole year working with three and four year olds. The goal was for these children to hear beginning sounds, create rhyming words and know their alphabet. I really worked at it. I also had very little success. The following year, I taught kindergarten. 50% of my students had it down in two weeks. 90% in four weeks. 100% by the end of the year. I honestly believe that the preschool experience was a total waste of time for both the students and me. Why all the pressure? Did it really make that big of a difference in the student’s ability to be career or college ready? Absolutely not! Those children likely figured it out in kindergarten. All that time forcing this when we could have been doing something real! We are so worried about discreet skills that we are missing real learning!

  10. Oh and by the way, teachers livelihoods have been threatened if they speak out about all this stuff. I am wondering what happened to my right to free speech!

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