Navigating life with a teenager….who happens to have bipolar disorder

My son, CJ, is failing math. This month he has to take the GA state CRCT (criterion referenced competency test) and I was told that if he does not get a passing grade in math, he will not make it through to high school.  This has me worried for many reasons.  I don’t think holding him back is going to help him perform better next year… fact, I think he will end up being bored with learning all of the same things over again and be even more of a challenge in the classroom than he already is. My other concern is that, if he is held back, that has him turning 18 in the end of his junior year……and it will be out of my control to keep him in school if he decides to drop out. You see, there are days when he is determined to graduate.  There are even days when he talks about college. More often than not, he tells me that he wishes he could drop out now.

Up until 7th grade, CJ always did well in regard to math. Actually, until 6th grade, it was his best subject. Last year that all changed.  That was the year we moved to GA, and that was also the year they initiated the lovely thing we know as common core (could you hear the sarcasm?).  He was dropped into a program that was playing catch up to try to meet the standards that they were already behind on.  Because of this, they are moving so fast that many of the kids can’t seem to catch up.  When my son started to fall behind even further, he gave up.  This year they put him in a smaller secondary class to try to help him learn skills he was missing, he passed without a problem, but it still didn’t help him in his regular math class…..because he learns differently than the way his teacher is providing the information.

From what we are experiencing with CJ, I think common core is disastrous for kids with special needs or learning disabilities.  They usually need ‘out-of-the-box’ methods to help them understand things and common core does not allow that.  My feeling is that this is simply because the teachers are held to testing ‘checkpoints’ along the way and have to move faster to meet those testing standards, they can only take the time to teach using ‘in-the-box’ curriculum. I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of the teachers, it is the common core standard that has them backed into a corner. I have read that common core is simply about the standard requirements, not the methods, however, I have heard and read about many teachers that say it doesn’t allow them the freedom to teach to the best of their abilities.

It’s not just kids with special needs, I know many children without learning challenges that are struggling in math since they have implemented common core.  In fact, I received an email from CJ’s teacher last month stating that 90% of her students had not performed as expected on a recent unit test that was taken on a Friday. She then sent a link to a Powerpoint presentation to help them study and asked the parents to have these kids do an on-line retest, because she needed to start the next unit on Monday and didn’t want them to fall behind.  I wanted to scream……….90% of the kids did poorly, yet they were expected to understand what she was unable to teach them in a Powerpoint presentation???? On top of that, they had to keep moving forward within 2 days.

I have to admit, I have trouble understanding algebra.  For me, my inability to do algebraic equations has not hindered me in life. I graduated from art school. I have a great job that helps provide for my family.  I am actually really good with numbers…..but put them in a ridiculous sentence where I have to find a, b, x or y and I am lost.  I am far from stupid; I am simply a visual thinker.  There are many people out there that are like me.  If I was put in my son’s class right now, I would most definitely struggle because the teacher wouldn’t have the time to show us ‘visual thinkers’ an alternate way of learning the information. If every student is expected to learn the same way, you are setting them up for failure.

I have read articles and watched videos on common core. One of the simplest ways they used to explain it was by showing a stair case.  Just like every house is designed with a different style of staircase, each state has different levels of requirement in education.  What they are trying to do is get every state’s staircase to match, so that when kids get to the landing at each grade level in MO their knowledge matches the kids on the same landing in MA.

Ok, here is my problem with that……..even if I agreed with the common core principle. If this standard was implemented starting with 1st grade and then adding a grade each year following, by the time these kids got to middle school or high school, they might all be on the same page, or at least in the same vicinity.  When you implement this across the board and, in the same year, expect middle school or high school students to meet the standards that equal those in Shanghai where they have been implementing this type of standard for years, you’re kidding yourselves……and placing way too much pressure on these kids.  It’s simply too much, too fast……for the students and the teachers.  They are back-tracking and trying to fill in years of gaps in information.

Here is another issue I have. Not every kid is going to be taking the same staircase after they graduate, why on earth are we expecting them to do that while they are in school? Success to some students might be college, medical school or a law degree, but to others it is working with animals, building cars or designing landscapes. For some special needs kids success is maintaining a job, being self-sufficient, balancing a checkbook and paying bills on their own.

In my opinion, by holding them to the common core standards;  we are not giving each child the tools that they need to be successful in THEIR lives, we are expecting them to accept the only tools that are being offered to become the government’s standard of what they think successful should be.



Comments on: "The Common Core Conundrum" (6)

  1. Barbara Anible said:

    Well said, Caryn! Now to figure out how to get the red tape gurus to listen.


  2. Reblogged this on Coloring Outside The Lines and commented:
    I love how eloquently this post describes my own fears and frustrations concerning common core. My son is in first grade, and is well behind his fellow classmates in regards to reading and math. In January we moved him from the mainstream classroom. He is thriving in a self contained classroom, but is far from where he needs to be in regards to common core – yet eventually he will be required to take these assessments and the school will be dinged because of his scores.

    Why are we allowing our children to feel the humiliation and anxiety of learning. Reading used to be something that my son adored to do with me. Now if I pick up a book he runs into the other room screaming. Math, he totally thinks outside the box and is a spatial learner. I don’t think common core is fair. I don’t think expecting 100% of our students to meet the same test takers from countries that weed out their students like they do a garden is fair.

    Education is not one size fits all. I wish our educators, administrators, and policy makers would stand up and do the right thing for all of our children.


    • I agree. They definitely didn’t take our kiddos into consideration when they put this plan in place. I also read that there was not one special ed teacher consulted when they put the board together to create common core. I didn’t use that piece in the post because I only read it in one place….and I like to have back up info if I am going to use it. I think they missed a big piece of the puzzle if that part is true.
      Thanks for reading and reblogging. It is much appreciated. 🙂


  3. I live in the Atlanta metro area. I feel your pain. This time of year for my household is stressful no matter our best efforts to the contrary. The entire system is broken. All the teachers I know are frustrated. This system is beyond broken.

    Thankfully my county has a career academy that offers alternatives to the college route for my child. He will begin study in graphic arts in the fall. I wish I had answers for you…


    • We have a career academy here as well, but they still have to take their main classes at the high school where common core has been implemented. I have been told that they can’t start until Sophomore year. My son is interested in studying video production…..but even if he makes it through this year, that leaves him all of freshman year to feel defeated until he has classes that might engage him. I am praying that we can get through the next few weeks without a major meltdown. May the next few weeks fly by for all of us.
      Thank you for reading. 🙂


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