When I was in school in the 1970’s reading recognition was the order of the day. Students were presented with a list of spelling words they were supposed to memorize and stories to read that used those words. The student was then supposed to recognize the word and read it. I could not do it. I knew the word I knew what it meant; I had an excellent vocabulary, spelling- not so much. Then when I was ten years old a teacher named Mrs. Roush did something magic. In a small classroom, with four or five other children, she taught me phonics. She spent the first part of the year teaching us how letters work together to form sounds and how those sounds form words. We spent the rest of the time reading graphic novels. (We called them comic books.) In that tiny classroom she gave me the key to the world.
My early schooling was and would be considered a failure. I always tested poorly and failed classes as a result. By the seventh grade I really did not see the point of school. By sixteen I had dropped out. But by teaching me to read Mrs. Roush allowed me to fail up. Because I could read, comprehend, and follow instructions I was always employable and I always worked. In my middle twenties I got my G. E. D. and at thirty-eight I began college. I graduated with honors with a degree in Human Services.
Now fast forward to today. I recently spent time talking to a former teacher. She taught in one of those tiny classrooms and she tried to give her students the keys they needed to fail up. She created a learning plan to meet the needs of each of her students. They were all making progress but that progress could not be measured on a standardized test. Administrators insisted she teach all the children in her classroom by the same lesson plan. She tried to explain to them that autistic children learn differently than children with other developmental delays. They were more concerned with standardized testing and federal dollars. She left the classroom because her hands were tied by test scores.
There are politicians and educators out there who seem to believe children are computers with legs. You plug in the same information, run a diagnostic and get predictable results. It just doesn't work like that. Imagine a world where there are no Mrs. Roushs. No tiny classrooms to meet the needs of kids that are marching to a sound only they can hear. Imagine a world where educators no longer make magic and give little girls like me the key to the future. And you will have common core.