I am here today to help set your mind at ease about our elementary school educational system. The kids are going to be fine.
I know there has been a lot of concern lately about Common Core, mostly centered around the fact that we parents no longer understand the new math, so we can no longer help our children with their homework. I personally fail to see why me getting out of homework time is a bad thing, but to each their own.
I will admit, however, I heard some disturbing things at Back to School Night. Four instants, I herd that hour children our know longer re choired two take spelling tests, cents they will all ways have spell Czech. That’s probably knot a grate idea, cents their our know red lines under any words in this pair a graph, butt its chalk full of miss steaks, May king IT con fusing and hard too reed.
I was also told that the new math program doesn’t focus so much on getting the right answer these days, but more on the students’ ability to collaborate in a group. I find that utterly offensive. Why are my children being offered this insanely awesome math utopia and I was not? I would have loved that system!
I used to collaborate all the time with my fellow students during math, but my teachers always called it “cheating.” Now students are being asked to talk to each other, and graded on how well they do it? Come on! That’s just salt into my report card wounds. I could’ve had straight A’s with this new system.
We had to slave away at our desks by ourselves with no Google at our fingertips to help us solve for X. Now the kids can just pull out a phone, fire up the math solver app, take a picture of the problem, and email the answer to the teacher. Then, as long as they all cheerfully agree on which math solver app is the best, and someone in the group can articulate a half-coherent reason for wanting to know what X was in the first place, (or at least what an X looks like, lol), they all get an A in math.
Actually, they all get a B or a T in math. Apparently, traditional letter grades are really only useful when you want to know if a student knows the right answers. A, B, C, D, and F have been abandoned in favor of E, S, N and T, B, L.
When you get rid of the standard letter grades, it also apparently makes sense to get rid of report cards, too. We’ll now just get “progress reports” rating our child’s development of the “characteristics of a successful learner” with either an E (excellent), an S (satisfactory), or an N (needs improvement).
As far as the individual subjects go, they’ll be rated with T, B, or L. The T stands for “progressing Toward meeting standard expectations in the reportable area.” The B definition, on the other hand, also has the word “toward” in it, but means “progressing toward Basic understanding in the reportable area.” That made me wonder why the T wasn’t an S, until I remembered that S means my child has developed “satisfactory characteristics of a successful learner.” Maybe the T should be an M? Who knows? Anyway, the L stands for “demonstrating Limited progress toward basic understanding and proficiency in the reportable area.” I personally think the L should just be replaced with a thumbs down emoticon, but they didn’t ask my opinion.
I don’t have the energy to begin to pretend like I understand any of it, but I do see one glaringly obvious problem with the new grade reporting system right off the bat – doughnuts.
Krispy Kreme used to give me one doughnut for every A on my kids’ report cards. Sometimes I would even let the kids have one of them. And I don’t like to brag, but between their mom’s brains and my height, they’re all pretty smart. Up until now, I would get A LOT of doughnuts at report card time.
But this new system has the potential to completely derail my gravy train of delicious glazed goodness. How the hell am I supposed to get free doughnuts with a “progress report” full of T’s?
Is all of this concerning? Of course. Has anything I’ve shared with you put you at ease? Of course not. The doughnut issue alone should have you feeling sick to your stomach - much like the day after report card doughnut day.
But don’t despair! The news from the classroom may be bleak, but there is still hope. The news from the playground is an entirely different story. The news from the playground will lift your spirits and set your mind at ease. The kids are going to be all right. How do I know? Four Square. That’s how.
Son Number One came home the other day and started telling me about playing Four Square. Like math, I foolishly thought I already knew all about it, but then he then started speaking another language, so I slowed him down and had him explain the new Four Square to me.
Back in my day, Four Square was just a game with four players in four squares and a bouncy ball that could only bounce in your square once before you were required to catch it. If it bounced twice, you were out. Like ABC or 123, plain and simple.
Four Square today is an entirely different animal. I had my son explain all the different rules to me. After a half-hour of nonstop machine gun-like information, I had to stop him, because my head was spinning.
The four squares are now named. They are King, Queen, Servant, and Jail. The king always starts with the ball. There is still what’s known as “regular” rules, where the one bounce applies. However, now there are approximately a thousand variants.
Tennis; Around the World, the more confusing, Reverse Around the World, and the incredibly difficult variant, Around the World Headers; Pac Man; Bus Stop; Back Stop; Edges, which may or may not be the same thing as Bus Stop; Apple Cider, and the more difficult Apple Cider variant, Poisonous Spider; Story Time; Watermelon; Out of the Box; Glass Ball; Cherry Bomb; Ghost in the Halls, and the confusing variant, Ghost in the Halls Touch Up; and the list just kept going, each with an intricate set of rules and regulations, many of which didn’t even involve the ball.
It was mind boggling. When I was his age we could all barely agree on the rules for a simple game of Red Rover. These kids are way more inventive than we were, and way smarter, too. They may or May knot no how to spell, but they’re going to be fine.
I’m a pretty decent speller, but I would get an F in Four Square today. Or an N. Or an L. I’m not sure.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to draft a letter to the president of Krispy Kreme explaining the new grading system.
Can someone please explain it to me, first?
See you soon,
Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen
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