Is Common Core the Cause or the Cure for Failing Schools?

This morning I had a conversation with my good girlfriend about the reason she will be pulling her 6th grade son out of school this week and homeschooling him for the remainder of the school year.  Her son, a bright 11-year-old, is failing his courses at his Baltimore City Public Middle School and his mother attributes this failure to the Common Core Curriculum the school system has adopted, as well as the unsupportive teachers.  After a meeting with the school principal, my good girlfriend was left angry and hopeless because the school was not willing or able to offer any type of tutoring for her son so that he could get back on track with his academic endeavors.  Furthermore, the principal informed her that even though her son reads at a third grade level, he would not be held back a grade.

Common Core curriculum has been a nuisance to parents and children, alike, since it was introduced in 2009.  According to the Common Core website, Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics, and English language arts/literacy.  The learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade.  Furthermore, according to an article published by NBC News, Common Core is designed to emphasize analytical and critical thinking skills.

Opponents of Common Core, such as my good girlfriend say that the homework is too confusing.  Parents are unable to help children with their work, when needed, because we simply did not learn this way.  It’s a shame that the Baltimore City school system cannot do more for this child who is so behind in the curriculum.  This is an issue that many families I know face, both regarding unsupportive faculty and difficult results-based curriculum in Baltimore City Public Schools.

Move Over Lyft and Uber! Google Has a New Ride-Sharing App

Did you know that Google has a ride-sharing app?  After a successful trial run in Israel and San Francisco, Google has decided to expand service to the United States and Latin America.  “Waze”, which is the name of the app, is in the United States now as a navigation service that tells you of upcoming obstacles in your road trip, and now it will add ride-sharing to its roster.  Instead of the conventional request-a-ride model that Uber ad Lyft use, Waze aims to encourage drivers already headed somewhere to pick up riders along the way.  Ride costs are also considerably lower than that of Uber and Lyft, with a ride normally costing $11-$12 only costing Waze users $4.50, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Though Waze will not take a percentage of the ride fee from drivers, the pay is a lot less than that of Lyft and Uber.  The purpose is to discourage drivers from making Waze their only source of income.  It is also important to note that Waze may be taking up to a 15% cut of the drivers’ wages in the near future, should the app reach success in the U.S. and Latin America.

Google’s New Anti-Troll Initiative

Google has come up with a new initiative to fight internet trolls.  A troll is someone who posts harmful content on internet blogs, chat rooms, and other social media sites with the intention of provoking other users in a negative way.  Using a new artificial intelligence tool called “Perspective”, which was released on Thursday, internet users are able to feed online content into the site which can be rated by other users for its potential to cause harm to others.  The tool also scans the internet for harmful content, which can also be rated by users.  The site generates a “toxicity score” based on user feedback, which users can use to decide whether they want to participate in certain conversations and posts.  News and blog sites can use Perspective to monitor their comment section.  Lastly, users can feed certain words and phrases into Perspective to generate a score on how harmful that content is according to other users who rated the content.

Black Children Left Behind by “No Child Left Behind”

In 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, ending the failed No Child Left Behind Law in 2015.  Many have blamed the No Child Left Behind law on the failing condition of predominately Black schools due to several factors, including the strict guidelines for testing scores.

Signed by President Bush in 2002, the law mandated that students in grades 3 through 8 must be tested on their proficiency in reading and mathematics, and that those scores must be reported and categorized by different demographic groups.  Individual school success is measured by Average Yearly Progress (AYP), and schools that did not meet AYP were at risk of being defunded, having students transfer, and mandatory tutoring which must be paid for by the school, to name a few.  Schools even risked being taken over or turned into charter schools.

As a result of the harsh repercussions put in place by No Child Left Behind, schools felt pressure to have their students excel at the standardized tests.   Teachers spent more time on math and reading, since those were the two areas students were tested on, and less time on other subjects that are also important in shaping a child’s education.  Additionally, students who weren’t equipped with the skills to succeed at the tests by the third grade were eventually pushed out of their schools and put into alternative schools or “better-performing schools”.  This largely affected Black students, due to the fact that Black students score lower on standardized tests than the general population, and contributed to the school to prison pipeline, being that Black students are more likely to be suspended and expelled than other students.

No Child Left Behind is one of the programs I will examine when exploring Black students’ success in predominately white schools.  It appears that a number of Black students were moved to predominately white schools resulting from poor standardized test scores and I will report on how they fared.