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Can kids tell whether they’re being taught the Common Core?

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This school year, teachers around the country changed their curricula to meet the new Common Core standards, a national set of standards mapping out what students should learn in math and English language arts. Math teachers covered fewer topics in greater depth. English teachers cut back on fiction and assigned more supplemental readings – articles and essays that gave more context to, and offered up opinions about, classic works of literature. But did students notice these changes? Is the Common Core on students’ radar?

Mallory Falk spoke with students from Bard’s Early College program in New Orleans:

JULIO BERMUDEZ: My name is Julio Bermudez. I’m 16 years old and I go to the Net Charter High School.

RICARDO QUINONEZ: Ricardo Quinonez Jr., 16, soon to be 17. I go to Cohen College Prep.

CARRIE LEDLOW: My name is Carrie. I attend International High School New Orleans and I’m a senior this year. 17.

Belle Chasse Primary School 4th graders Zachary Davis, left, Bella Gross, Julianna Shipp, Nickolas Farrington, Cody Gaubert, Dante Compton, Emily Hotard, and Matthew LaRoche listen to Mary Beth Newchurch as they look over a reading passage from their writer's binders to determine if the passage was written in First, Second, or Third Person point of view in Belle Chasse, La. Thursday, April 3, 2014. (Photo: MATTHEW HINTON/Advocate)

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SAVANNAH BREWER: I’m Savannah Brewer. I’m 18 and I go to the International High School of New Orleans.

BRIA HAYS: My name is Bria. I am 16 and I go to International High School of New Orleans.

MALLORY FALK: Have you heard about the Common Core?

BERMUDEZ: No, I haven’t.

QUINONEZ: No, I haven’t.

LEDLOW: Um, not entirely.

BREWER: I know a lot of parents have kind of reacted negatively towards it.

QUINONEZ: I’m guessing it deals with maybe the grading system or the like needs to graduate, maybe.

LEDLOW: I mean I heard that it’s like a different sort of curriculum. Pretty much changing the idea of what we’re learning in schools.

HAYS: I heard that the Common Core is something that’s countrywide. And I heard that it’s a really challenging curriculum for a lot of states. ‘Cause we’re not up there in education as a country, so I guess this was a program to help students become more knowledgeable and swifter with learning.

FALK: Have you noticed changes in your classes?

LEDLOW: Personally, not really.

QUINONEZ: I haven’t noticed many differences. It’s pretty similar to the curriculum last year.

HAYS: It’s a lot harder. A lot more homework. Last year was more relaxed and chill. And I liked that year way better.

QUINONEZ: The teachers give a lot more quizzes and homework, but I just figured that’s because I’m in AP classes this year. But I talked to some of the students at my school and it seems to be a trend for all classes, not just AP.

LEDLOW: It seems like rather than reading a lot of fiction and analyzing that, we’re reading a lot of things that are happening in the now and more nonfiction and more interviews and stuff like that.

HAYS: With my English class, right now we’re going over Huckleberry Finn. And we just went over how a black student was going to do a petition about putting Huckleberry Finn in the curriculum. And also the reasons why the word “nigger” should not be used. Having the excerpts of the people who thought about the novel, that gives me another thinking or a way if I don’t understand the novel I could think about what they said and see if I could agree with it to make me understand the novel way more better. So yeah, I really do appreciate those excerpts.

FALK: Do you have any thoughts on why there’s this big national change happening but it’s not necessarily on the radar of students?

BERMUDEZ: I think the reason why students haven’t learned much about it is because of the lack of information that teachers give out to some students.

QUINONEZ: I’m guessing we don’t really know about it because it might not be a big change. It doesn’t seem like that big of a change to me. But it seems like maybe the students won’t really pay attention to it and they’ll get adapted to it faster.

BREWER: I feel like a lot of students probably just don’t care enough to educate themselves on it. I know personally I heard about it but I was like I’m a senior, it doesn’t really matter what I know about it or not. Which isn’t good. That’s not being a good student. I’m not saying that that’s okay to be complacent. But I just feel like a lot of people don’t really care enough to know.

LEDLOW: I guess it’s more of an idea to like slowly change it until it becomes the normal thing. Slow integration of different cores and stuff like that would just seem to be easier than a full on, we’re suddenly gonna change this to this ‘cause then kids are gonna be really confused.

HAYS: Maybe if you tell kids oh we’re gonna go through another program then they’re gonna kind of close their mind toward it. However just to tell them oh this is gonna be a little different this year, they’re gonna be like okay, alright.

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