Thoughts from a Coach on the Common Core Standards

Although most people know me as a college professor, I have spent almost as much time out of the classroom coaching as I have in the classroom teaching. My first job, at age 17, was teaching tennis at a summer camp, and when my kids were growing up, i spent 20 years coaching basketball, basketball and for a few years, soccer, in the neighborhoods near Prospect Park.

I took tremendous pride in my coaching, and in particular my ability to motivate and inspire a wide range of children and young people. Not only did many of my teams have girls- and girl stars- in leagues where the vast majority of players were boys, but I went out of my way to take kids who other coaches wouldn’t or couldn’t handle because they were considered “behavior problems.” Despite this, no team I ever coached had a losing record. Some of it was because I held more, and longer practices than other coaches, but most of it was because I treated each player as an individual, with different aptitudes, different talents, and different emotional needs, and took a different strategy for each player to get the most out of what they had. Some kids I coached had so little confidence that they couldn’t hit a ball pitched slowly to them or make a layup- I worked hours with them individually until they made a breakthrough on those relatively simple actions. For other more skilled players, I developed drills or exercises that encouraged them to employ the skills they already had at higher rates of speed. For the team as a whole I assigned fitness drills that everyone could do together. But I always taught skills with an understanding that different individuals had different learning curves as well as different starting points

Now back to curriculum The Common CORE curriculum is based on the idea that all students in a certain grade, everywhere in the nation, should learn a common set of skills and that they should be tested on how well they acquire those skills, and teachers rated on how well they acquire them

To me, this not only makes no sense for a single nation, it doesn’t even make sense for a single CLASS! Children are enormously diverse in the ways they acquire, retain and display skills, be they physical, intellectual, or artistic. You try to make them all learn the same way, at the same pace, and they all suffer! Some will be left behind, some will be held back, all will be frustrated. The challenge of a great teacher, like a great coach, is to develop a team or group atmosphere in a class while encouraging the individuals in the class to each do the best work they are capable of. To drive everyone toward the same “outcome” at the same pace, will create frustration, demoralization and stress.

One of the things I do, to put this in perspective, is to imagine if someone gave me Common Core standards for coaching baseball and basketball. Everyone has to learn to field a bunt, make a cut off throw, or take a jump shot from the corner at the same point in the season. If that had been applied to me, not only would many of my players have left the team in humiliation, because they could never do what was asked, but my teams would all have lost and I would have quit coaching

What we are doing, with this national curriculum that claims to be a “non-curriculum” is humiliating students, destroying a love of learning, and undermining the unique talents for reaching individual students that our best teachers have.

This is not an Educational Renaissance, it is an Educational Nightmare

Just ask your Coach!