Common Core and the Aha Moment

common coreToday my oldest daughter began the first in a series of tests mandated by New York State;  tests most commonly referred to as high stakes tests associated with the implementation of common core.


She has heard the murmurings of the Opt Out movement and she’s aware that I am not an advocate of high stakes testing or the current implementation of common core.  She’s even heard some of her teachers bemoaning the content and method for teaching the curriculum.  She’s a smart kid and she is clever enough to know how to tip the scales in her favor and so, recently, she asked “So Mom, if you don’t think these tests are useful and I shouldn’t worry about what grade I get, why do I have to take them?  Can’t I opt out?”

Oops.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be having these conversations anywhere near my children.

I did consider my daughter’s request but, in the end, I explained that I didn’t feel that opting out was the best thing for her.  And, as with most things, she surprised me with her approach to the first day of testing this morning.

“Mrs. M said we should be sure to have a good breakfast this morning.  Can you make me a big, strawberry smoothie?”  she asked.

Of course.

“Last year, Mrs. S told us we should dress for success on test days.  I think I’ll wear my green dress today.”

Well, ok then.

She walked out the front door feeling happy and confident and ready to get Day 1 done.

It was a parenting ‘aha’ moment for me.  You see, from the moment that kid arrived in our lives, we have tried our best to teach her how to navigate life.  How to truly enjoy the good things and navigate through the not-so-good things on her own and in the best way possible.  This morning, watching her prance around the house and prepare herself and her mind for the day ahead – a day that she has been dreading all year – I thought, we must be doing something right.

That felt good, but that doesn’t mean that I am excited about common core or these crazy tests.

Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”  I couldn’t agree more.

My kids – all kids – learn when they are immersed in the experience of their education.  When they can touch, feel, explore and be a part of the learning experience.  Common core and all of the textbooks and worksheets and tests that go along with it account for a huge amount of taxpayer money spent on anything but immersing our kids in their learning experience.

I recently pointed out to my district that the state of New York has already received $700 million from the Federal Government to implement Race to the Top – or common core.  Interestingly, the state will need to spend at least $1 billion to implement the program.  Ummm.  Anyone else wondering where the rest of that money is coming from?

In effect, if we continue this madness called common core, we will essentially bankrupt our schools.

The only thing about this whole mess that gives me hope is that experience really will become our best teacher.  My hope is that our collective experience with the roll-out and implementation of the common core standards will allow the entire state of New York to experience an ‘aha’ moment;  a moment that causes every one of us to pause and recognize that programs – not test papers – and experiences – not textbooks – will provide every single one of our kids with the greatest education possible.  Those programs and experiences will be the key to our kids’ college and career-readiness;  more importantly, they will be key to life-readiness.

So, what is the happiness take-away today?  Quite honestly, it’s a bit of a struggle to find it today.  But, here goes.

Today, I am happy to be part of this mess called common core, because today it gave my daughter the chance to prove something.  Common core helped her prove that she has learned how to navigate, and make the best of, a bad situation;  she has proven that, in spite of common core, she is well on her way to being life-ready.  A happy moment for any parent.



  1. i think what your daughter took away from today is… take a difficult test and get a strawberry smoothie… happiness


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