No Child Left Behind, Finally.

How Will Low-Income Students Fare with the Push to the Common Core and More Classroom Technology?

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In my senior year of college, a friend encouraged me to apply to Teach for America. Though I had myself convinced that I wouldn’t be interested in the program, I began working on the application anyway. And things haven’t been the same since. Once I was prompted to read the articles on the dismal state of education in the US, and particularly for urban students, I knew I would forever be committed to the cause.

Through my corps placement, I taught in a low-income school in East Side San Jose for three years. With no curricular resources and a classroom trailer that leaked every time it rained, I can attest to the many constraints and concerns of urban teachers across the country. I felt both disheartened and emboldened by the obvious state of affairs: the students in this country that need the most get the least.

Because of the simultaneous push for a fresh set of standards and a new, technology-based assessment system, educators have raised concerns about how these transitions will impact low-income students. But with the status quo putting a clear ceiling on the achievement of urban students, it’s time to try something different. As someone who taught in a Title I school for several years, I believe that both the Common Core standards and the prominent role of technology can both benefit the students in these schools.

First let’s tackle the Common Core State Standards. By ensuring that classrooms around the country meet the same learning goals, students—regardless of their background, race, or income—will be held to the same common baseline. And, thankfully, that baseline is significantly more rigorous. As Thomas Toch, director of the Washington office of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching,stated:For those students, the new national standards represent a path to the demanding subjects that many local educators have long doubted they could or should study. The achievement gap in public education, unfortunately, is in no small part an expectations gap.”

Critics of the Common Core suggest that the standards are unrealistic for students. As Diane Ravitchtold the New York Times, the rigor of the Common Core standards is “too high” and falsely prepares all students for college. From my own experience in the classroom, I know that students will rise to the challenges set by their teachers.And expectations of students should only continue to increase. I’m also all too aware of the fact that, with our current system, the low-income students are often excluded from the option of attending college, and not by choice. According to the ACTreport in 2012, low-income students consistently lack the core courses needed to prepare for college, ultimately causing a huge gap in performance on college entrance exams. I believe that a push to a curriculum that encourages critical thinking and prepares students for college and the workplace alike can only be a benefit to these students.

Now let’s address why technology can also be advantageous in low-income classrooms. Education studies clearly demonstrate that technology in urban classrooms can increase student achievement and motivation (Penuel, 2006; Light, McDermott, & Honey 2002). Additionally, the push to computer-based exams has prompted a rapid proliferation of online resources, many of which are free. With Khan Academy, students can now practice math concepts and receive quality SAT preparation. With Edcite, students can engage with Common Core material at their own pace. And, with many of these resources, students can continue their practice and push their own learning by completing assignments for other grade levels and other subjects. Gone are the days when students with access to quality textbooks or test prep courses are given a huge advantage.

After leaving the classroom in June, I was excited to start at Edcite and work with a team that is dedicated to education equity in the United States and around the world. We believe that technology and equity can go hand-in-hand and, with a free platform for teachers and students, we hope to perpetuate the positive change happening in classrooms across the country.

Instead of debating the Common Core, we are betting that more rigorous standards coupled with technology-enhanced education will open more opportunities for all students. My students and yours deserve that.

 

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