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A parent's perspective on the Common Core [Letter]

I read with interest the recent piece on the Common Core standards written by Queen Anne's County Teacher of the Year Amanda Ensor ("Common Core standards connect learning to life," Nov. 13). I have two children in the Queen Anne's County public school system (3rd and 1st grades) who are currently working their way through the new curriculum. I found the piece so interesting because it seemed as though this Teacher of the Year is teaching a completely different curriculum than what my two children are learning. Perhaps in Church Hill (we're in Centreville) the Common Core is being taught differently, though I doubt that very seriously. Whatever the case, I've watched my 3rd grader go from being that child who couldn't wait for Monday to arrive so that he could get into school to learn to now dreading the start of the school week.

When our older son was in the 1st grade, he was a part of the "test group" for the Common Core curriculum. Since then, he has gone through several different vocabulary words for the same math lessons just because he's being taught to a test. For instance, our math-minded child came home with a 56 percent on a test because it was focused on "estimation." When we sat down to discuss what he didn't understand about the test. He said to us that he didn't understand estimation. "Mom, I know how to round, but I don't know what estimation is." It wasn't until I explained to him that the only difference was in terminology that he understood how to do the work.

In the meantime, we have watched a very creative boy lose his creative spark. It wasn't long ago that our 3rd grader would bring home books written during the school day — sometimes with collaboration from his classmates, some written all on his own. The books would be well-illustrated fiction stories; they would be stories about his favorite football team (Go Redskins!); stories about what he had done at recess; stories about the upcoming soccer game after school; or a nonfiction story about his favorite animal, the cheetah. But we haven't seen any books this year. In fact, we've seen nothing that shows any kind of outside-the-box thinking. We see test scores, quiz scores and writing grades.

I appreciate the idea of challenging students to think. I appreciate the idea that learning is the reason these children are in school. I appreciate that the children are being challenged to go beyond what's easy. But when the fun is taken out of learning so that test scores can reflect a teachers' understanding of the curriculum, I struggle. When my children are being taught to a test rather than to expand their minds creatively, I have a problem. Where's the fun in education? Where's the understanding? Where's the freedom of expression? It's certainly not in test scores.

I'm sure the teacher of the year for Queen Anne's County does a fantastic job in her 4th-grade classroom teaching her students a new curriculum — this is exactly why she is the teacher of the year. But when an op-ed is written asking parents to give it a chance, can so many parents be wrong and one teacher be right?

Kimberly Miller, Centreville

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