Louis C.K. Speaks Out About Common Core Curriculum and Standardized Testing in NYC's Schools
Comedian Louis C.K. can find humor in just about anything. But, he doesn't find the Common Core curriculum and standardized testing in NYC's schools funny, or so the jokes regarding the subject suggest. C.K. took to social media to rag on the practice and continued to criticize it on "The Late Show" where he appeared last Thursday evening.
Early last week, the funnyman remarked that the curriculum and testing embraced an approach where "if a school's kids don't test well, they burn the school down. ... It's pretty high pressure." He also tweeted to his three million followers, "My kids used to love math! Now it makes them cry." On "The Late Show," the jokester offered an example of a problem on his children's homework, stating, "Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?" To which, the host of "The Late Show" David Letterman joked, "You better notify the fire department."
Two daughters, ages 9 and 12, the Mexican-born stand-up comedian and screen performer expressed his frustration at his daughters' math homework, saying that the federally approved -- but not yet nationally mandated -- standards offer poorly conceived and badly communicated curricula. His critical opinions on "number lines" and "number sentences" and the corresponding daunting directives, such as "show your work," are not his alone. Both parents and teachers have found fault in the Common Core program, which often asks bizarre questions. Educators have held citywide protests, totting the same message, calling the problems "tricky and developmentally inappropriate." Principal Elizabeth Phillips of P.S. 321, a school located in Park Slope, insisted that members of the State Board of Regents to take the test themselves.
"Afterward, I would like to hear whether they still believed that these tests gave schools and parents valuable information about a child's reading or writing ability," she wrote.
Some schools have offered parents institutional support as they protest by opting their children out of testing. The Brooklyn New School has taken on the "opt-out movement" as two-thirds of the children in testing grades have been opted out by parents. The option to opt out isn't just a decision that wealthy parents are making. Many parents in areas such as Brownsville and Bushwick have decided to remove their children from high-pressure testing situations.
The Common Core website offers the importance of the standards, stating that the curriculum is research- and evidence-based; clear, understandable, and consistent; aligned with college and career expectations; based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills; built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards; and informed by other top-performing countries to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society
The opposition, those in favor of standardized testing, agrees with the site's definition of the curriculum and reminds that the testing is meant to measure college- and career-readiness, even during early grades. Also, they offer that the complication with Common Core lies with the implementation, not the program. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is one of the great defenders of Common Core curriculum and has shrugged off parental complaints. Once, he was made to apologize about a snide remark where he'd stated that it was "white suburban mothers" who complained, after discovering that their child weren't quite as "brilliant as they thought they were." The poke at privilege distracts from the fact that non-white and non-suburb dwelling individuals are against the Common Core curriculum, also. It also ignores the fact that C.K. and others aren't complaining that the work is too difficult rather that students are made to "study to the test," study material that isn't age appropriate, and then they are tested rigorously.
Newsweek writer Alexander Nazaryan and C.K. bickered over Common Core. Nazaryan stating, "The things @louisck says about school, technology etc. are shallow & trite, but they are said with emphasis & thus sound deep." C.K. quickly retorted, "@alexnazaryan the thing you say about me are shallow and mean but you posed in front of some books for your pic & thus sound smart."
All things considered, C.K. makes a valid point, but he and others with similar wealth throw funds and support behind charter-school initiatives rather than public schools. The majority of the students in the city attend public schools, taking the same tests as C.K.'s children but with fewer resources. Students in public schools could benefit from the advocacy of wealthy individuals, meaning that non-native English speakers and students from low-income families can compete, as the entire elementary collective takes the "traumatic and demoralizing" math assessments.
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