Today, we have many national standards. We have a national standard for currency, measurements, and even clothes sizes. The use of these standards seem to pop up in our everyday lives, and we simply accept them because they are national standards. We, as Americans, have decided to also standardize our education. Our Federal Government did this by creating the Common Core State Standards, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Both of these standardized education implementations had one goal: to set a standard for teaching and testing in English and Mathematics in grades K-12, and to increase our national education standings in the US. By doing this, our education’s have relied heavily on testing and teachers have been encouraged to teach for the test, rather than to teach to have their students gain useful knowledge for their futures. The NCLB Act was also set up specifically for minority students who may have not had a sufficiently useful education. The goal was to give these students more of a chance in their education and to better support the students as they moved through their academic careers. I personally believe that Common Core and the NCLB Act are both harming the public schools of our nation.
In Will Greer’s article, The 50 Year History of the Common Core, we can look into the logistics and the finer details of both the No Child Left Behind Act and Common Core. The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law on January 8th, 2002. This Act increased the federal role in holding schools responsible for the academic progress of the students. Greer documented that this Act was controversial when it was put into place for a number of reasons. The NCLB “mandated that 100% of students be proficient, or at grade-level, on state standards by 2014” which later, in turn, became unfeasible. It just was not possible for 100% of students to be proficient in these areas. NCLB also only focused on English and Mathematics, which led schools to lose focus on other subject areas outside of the testing subjects, such as fine arts, history, and music courses. Greer stated that this focusing hindered students from learning more than just English and Mathematics. NCLB also required the “reporting of test score results by ethnic, income, and ability groups.” which ultimately led to an “impoverished , constricted curriculum in some low-income LEA (Local Education Agency), and a less fulfilling schooling experience who needed it the most.” The NCLB Act also mainly focused on standardized testing to record public schools progress in education, which was an unreliable way to gather those results.
Because of all the controversies surrounding NCLB, Greer also states that the Common Core State Standards were put in place to remedy this, but did not do much to fix the problems in public school districts. Greer suggests that Common Core mainly stuck to the same ideals when it was implemented in 2009. Common Core standards still mainly focused on testing the subjects of English and Mathematics and did not offer much room for other subjects. Many teachers were only teaching for the exams in order to pass federal education standards, which in turn led to many students being under prepared for further education.
When we look into the universe of Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier, and into the life of the protagonist, Not Sidney Poitier, we can clearly see how the lack of a standardized education affected his own life and education. When Not Sidney enters into Morehouse University he takes a class with a professor named Percival Everett. Percival Everett seems to have his own curriculum and grading system, which is allowed in a privately run institution such as Morehouse. Many of the students in this class say that it is complete nonsense and dismiss it as a rubbish pass or fail type of credit. Not Sidney seems to have a better intuition than most of these students, and genuinely learns the lesson behind all of Professor Everett’s “nonsense” lessons that he was teaching to the class. Not Sidney seems to have a love hate relationship with Professor Everett, and often calls or speaks to him for advice. He seems to offer Not Sidney some very meaningful advice such as “Oh, and one more thing, don’t imagine you have limitations.”(112) which is something Not Sidney took with him throughout the novel, realizing slowly throughout the story that his skin color and odd name are no reason to be held back in life. Also, when Not Sidney had first met with Professor Everett, he had offered him the advice to not be “a sheep- be a deer or a squirrel, a beaver or a gnu, but don’t be a sheep.”(90) Soon after Not Sidney decides to join a fraternity, but remembers Professor Everetts advice during his hazing process and realizes what he meant by not being a “sheep”. Not Sidney would have never been able to obtain many of Professor Everett’s lesson had this institution been struck with a standardized set of rules for his education. Furthermore, Professor Everett had complete control to run his classroom how he had wanted too, and if the Federal Government had implemented Common Core standards then Not Sidney would have never taken anything away from his class, other than what he would have had to learn for the test.
We can even look into the world of SUNY Geneseo and come to the same conclusions as mentioned above. Although Geneseo is a state school and must follow some Federal policies, I have personally noticed the educational shift of coming from a Common Core centered high school. Since my high school had followed Common Core standards, I was always focused on getting the highest grades on all of my tests, but never focused on what I was getting out of the lessons I was being taught. Looking into my own English 203 classroom, I can see the policies that my professor must follow, but I also am getting so much more out of the lessons than I ever have before. In my class, Professor McCoy implemented a personalized blog post project which has forced me to write and think in ways that Common Core had never allowed me before. Despite the title of being a SUNY school, this school offers so many new ways of thinking that were restricted to me, and to so many other students by the implementation of Common Core standards in public schools
It seems as if the standardization of education has been a hot topic of controversy lately, and for very good reasons. By implementing Common Core and the NCLB act, which standardized education to the public, it did not allow students to be individualized any longer. In doing so, the states that implemented Common Core saw the students as nothing more than a statistic to put on charts. This standardization is unfair to the students who must endure it, and it tells students how to be educated. Every student deserves the individualization that Not Sidney was offered at Morehouse University. And they definitely deserve a Professor Everett as well.