By Hanna Katherine Wickes
Common Core are two of the most controversial words in America’s education system. Introduced in 2010, Common Core State Standards is a set of guidelines aimed at helping American students compete on a global scale. Although it can be argued whether or not Common Core has either helped or hindered America’s students, it has brought many changes to classrooms across the nation.
“We adopted Common Core in the 2011-2012 school year,” said Eric Hassler, superintendent of curriculum at Monroe Woodbury schools. “It was certainly a more rigorous set of standards.”
Common Core emphasizes standardized testing on math and reading, rewarding high scoring school districts with higher funding. With this new pressure on teachers, many have forsaked once-important activities in favor of more studying time. The two activities affected: recess and cursive-writing.
As children need to exercise and burn energy during the day, many parents regretted the loss of recess. “Students need to have that unstructured freetime,” said Patrick McQueeney, superintendent of curriculum at Sparta schools.
Studies have shown that undirected play helps children work collaboratively, to share, negotiate, and resolve conflicts on their own time. Child-driven playtime can also help children discover areas of interest of their own and ultimately engage into future passions they wish to pursue. Not to mention, it also works off any unchecked energy that may otherwise be distracting, keeping kids focused.
Although schools like Monroe and Sparta have kept time for recess and cursive-writing, there has been a decline in the latter more than ever before. “There are always implications to these sorts of things,” said Hassler. “It can involve additional professional development, currriculum writing time, and sometimes finances of the school.”
With the benefits of cursive-writing and recess for kids, it’s hard to imagine school without such classic staples. “Educating the whole child is critically important, we don’t want to lose sight on enrichment opportunities that can help our kids,” said Hassler.
The main purpose of Common Core was to create an education system where America could compete globally, but ever since the implementation of Common Core supported tests, opinions have changed dramatically. With disappointing test results, came disappointed parents and teachers. Politicians who once advocated for Common Core started to denounce it just a couple of years later. In fact, Former Indiana state governor and current VP Mike Pence was one of the first state-leaders to limit Common Core’s influence.
When asked why New Jersey no longer used Common Core standards, McQueeney said, “To bring attention back to the local community.”
“The original mistake was a one-size fits all national framework,” said McQueeney. “All students should be allowed to learn, but how and what a child can learn can change vastly across the country.”