Author Bio: Vonetta Logan is a financial news reporter for both tastytrade and dough (tastytrade's sister company). After being hired on to our team, Vonetta wanted to find a way to inform consumers and investors about the consequences/repercussions that current events and trends have on the financial space. 'Nailed It!' is a satirical segment created to do just that. 

If only Nailed It! had the time and resources for me to go undercover in an American High School like one of my favorite movies…Never Been Kissed.

Oh man, that would be awesome. I could have done all the research for this episode while still hoping for an invite to the big dance.

So I’m just gonna come right out and say it. I’m a nerd. The nerdiest nerd who ever nerded. But nerds aren’t made, they’re born, and I’ve been a nerd from the way back days. 

As I state in the ep, I do not have kids, that I know of….zing!, but rather cats*. 

*actual photo

*actual photo

But I was young not too long ago (if you don’t actually check my license). And my whole educational career was formed in public school. I spent grades K-3 in Texas... 

...and grades 4th- 12th in Indiana.

   

 

 

Talk about culture shock. My elementary school in Texas reflected the ethnic and socio-economic make up of Austin at the time. My dad worked for Texas Instruments and my mom for the University of Texas.  

Our little school had a full computer lab and a diverse student body that reflected the families of professors, tech workers and Mexican immigrants. 

I learned to code in 2nd grade on an Apple II using a program called Logo. That's what started my love affair with Apple. 

Classes were bilingual, and I could count and read in Spanish. We would make Ojo de Dios "God's eyes" along with regular ornaments for our holiday decorations.

Also, these cookies are my jam.

When my parents packed up and moved to a sleepy little town in Indiana that seemed to have more cows than people, let’s just say that some adjustments were needed. 

I might have been buried in snow, but I was not buried in schoolwork. I got bored in class going over material that I had already covered at my old school.

I got put in the “gifted” program (worst moniker ever) but still got bored. My mom would supplement my summers with her own blend of mom’s "magical worksheets" and reading assignments. I legit set a record at the local library for most books read over the summer.

I went to every summer camp you could imagine, just never the fun kind. Just once I wanted to have a “color war”.

Math, biology, science, student leadership, debate, journalism camps- I did them all. Toldja nerd OG. 

have-a-nerdy-photo-shoot.jpg


At camp you meet kids from all over the country. Even though we were grouped by age, there were vast differences in all of the stuff we were learning.

The differences became apparent as we all prepared to meet our maker. No, not that maker, the test kind.

The SATs. Some kids felt good about the test and ready for college. Others were scared that their tiny schools hadn’t even come close to prepping them for life after high school. 

I got lucky that-

1. My parents gave a damn. (Sometimes too much of a damn. Can I live?)

2. The public schools I attended were excellent.

3. The academic rigor of all honors/AP classes,  and summer intensives prepared me life after high school.

I not only qualified for multiple academic scholarships, but continued to thrive in college as well. (Also public university) Sup Hoosier Nation. 

 

So it struck me as odd that so many people would be against the idea of national standards for education, and would take active steps to pull their kids OUT of testing.

Seriously, take the time and read the standards here and here. 

Nothing super radical. Critical thinking! Evidence based writing! Number Sense! Whooooooooo (ghost noises)

A recent Gallup poll found that more than 60% of the public has no idea what the Common Core State Standards, CCSS even are.

Honestly, it sounds like something the dude Crossfit obsessed dude in your office would talk about. Yeah, but do you even lift, bro?

Simply put, people who learn more, earn more. Education is the one sure-fire way out of a life of poverty. 

That, or a sex tape. 

Common Core’s strong support by the federal government made it about as popular as making your man shop when football's on. "These are cute, but are they like, AS cute as the other ones?"

And liberals thought "teaching to the test" left no room for creative writing, the arts, and left wing indoctrination. Kidding! Now stare into this image….. Hillaryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy didn't mean to erase those emails.............

I read over 600 pages of research pertaining to Common Core, but I was having a hard time reconciling what was happening on the Facebook pages of angry moms and what was really going on in the classrooms of America.

So I interviewed* parents and teachers to see what they were dealing with to find out what was working and what wasn’t.

*actual photo of me prepping for an interview #nofilter

*actual photo of me prepping for an interview #nofilter

Linwood Ma*, dough’s CTO, actually brought the Common Core story idea to my attention.

*not actual photo

*not actual photo

I gotta say, the kids of tastytrade and dough roll "baller status" and very few are enrolled in public school. Totally public school me being judgey. 

But Linwood’s two kids attend a very good public school* on Chicago’s North Side. 

*not actual photo

*not actual photo

As a parent, the underlying force that drives me is the belief that education is a fundamental foundation. One that’s too valuable to not care about.
— Linwood Ma

Woody was concerned about how the state of Illinois made a deal with Pearson to totally change how kids are tested.

I was okay with PARCC at first, but as I looked into it, it seemed to be one of the bad side effects of capitalism.
— Linwood Ma

In fact, after this episode had wrapped filming, the LA unified school district announced it was terminating its contract with Apple and Pearson.

Apple-Scores-Massive-30M-22-3M-iPad-Deal-with-LA-Unified-School-District.jpg

 

LA Unified School District invested $1 billion dollars to provide each student in the district with an ipad pre-loaded with Pearson content. But teachers weren’t using the content and the ipads went unused. And now it's release the Kracken time. I mean... lawyers. Release the lawyers. So, there's just stacks of iPads lying around LA somewhere? Gimme gimme gimme… 

So how do I find out what's really going on in our schools? For the first time ever, I did a Nailed It "anonymous source" interview with two teachers* who are currently dealing with implementing Common Core State Standards.  I felt like a younger, sassier Woodward! 

*not actual photo, but shout out to Tracy and Jenna from dough 

*not actual photo, but shout out to Tracy and Jenna from dough 


Anonymous Source Interview-

The names have been changed to protect the teachers.

Also, it looks cooler. 

 

1. How long have you been teaching?

Teacher A: 8th year: Kindergarten -- IL

Teacher B: 6th year: 4 years 1st grade, 2 years 4th grade -- NY

2. How long has your school been teaching Common Core standards? 

Teacher A: Implementing, not teaching with full fidelity, since 2013-14 school year

Teacher B: Adopted CCSS immediately, approximately 3 years ago

3. Was there a training period before the standards were implemented? Did teachers in the district provide feedback? 

Teacher A: No training as a district. Individually, received training due to position on instructional leadership team -- professional development planning. 

Teacher B: Training during year one was minimal. Teachers pretty much on their own. Since then, trainings offered monthly during staff meetings and workshops. Also use online tools.

4. How much time is dedicated to taking the actual test? 

Teacher A: K-2 haven't started PARCC tests, but test is being adopted by district soon. Similar to MAP test = 3 hours throughout the year, all on computer. 

Teacher B: ELA tests = 70-90 mins for 3 days. Math = 60-80 mins for 3 days (grades 3-5)

5. How much teaching time is dedicated to "teaching to the test"? Is it more/less than previous tests?

Teacher A: Don't teach to the test as much as we teach testing skills that will be seen on tests (i.e. drag-and-drop). Tough without knowing what test will look like yet.

Teacher B: Don't teach to the test but teach to the standards. That being said, with tests coming up, reviewing certain concepts with students because some worry about succeeding on tests, mostly stemming from media and parental pressure.

6. Was there a massive upgrade in the amount of tech equipment- computers, laptops, iPads that needed to be purchased to implement the standards? 

Teacher A: District is set when it comes to technology.

Teacher B: All elementary kids now have their own laptops, and school has handful of iPads, etc.

7. What are the problems you have encountered with curriculum materials? 

Teacher A: Missing gaps between previous topics and CCSS topics (i.e. patterns used to be taught, and now aren't through CCSS)

Teacher B: Availability of curriculum materials -- books, etc. Teachers spend a lot of their own money on supplies ($100/week).

8. What are the problems you have encountered with test materials? Are you taking the PARCC/Pearson exam? Did the state replace it with a different version? (I know you may not be able to discuss this, and that's okay) 

Teacher A: Haven’t taken PARCC tests yet. Will take place for the first time this year.

Teacher B: Take the NY state assessments, not the PARCC exam, although there is talk to switch.

9. What has been going well? 

Teacher A: Critical thinking is a big push... getting kids to have a better understanding of math and ELA concepts. Also nice to know it's a level playing field across the country. 

Teacher B: Great to have a roadmap that is the same no matter what state (Alaska, California, NY). Hold teachers accountable for what they are teaching, and challenge kids which results in improved performance.

10. What would you change?

Teacher A: The CCSS don't always support early childhood development/rigor.

Teacher B: Change the test dates -- Tests are taken with 10 weeks left in the school year. Tests should be given within last month of school. Also, more accountability needs to be put on parents. Teachers have students for 7 hours per day for 5 days a week. Some students come to school hungry, without homework done, never being read to or put to bed at a decent time. 

11. Are test results tied to teacher evaluations in your school/district? 

Teacher A: Yes.

Teacher B: Yes. At the end of the year, I get a number attached to my name based on the students' scores from my classroom. Then, that number ties me to an Ineffective, Developing, Effective, or Highly Effective category. If I am Developing, I have to submit and go through a year of an improvement plan. Supposedly, if I am Ineffective for 3 years in a row, I can be dismissed. However, our district has told us that it's unlikely. 

12. Is/was there a "grace" period before scores were tied to performance?

Teacher A: Could be a grace period, but not totally sure until the PARCC test rolls out. However, having a good relationship with administrators is huge. Administrators are in and out of classroom all of the time doing evaluations, and so the end-of-year teacher assessments don't make that much of a difference if relationship with administrator is good.

Teacher B: I think there is a 3 year grace period in NY but not totally sure.

13. How have you been relaying the new standards to parents? Are they embracing them?

Teacher A: Some parents are very up to date with research. Others are clueless. Teachers host curriculum night where parents learn about curriculum. This past year, CCSS was added to presentation. Last year, CCSS was only discussed when parents brought it up. Last year, 90% of parents wouldn't have known about CCSS. 

Teacher B: Parents involved throughout parent-teacher nights at school and conferences. Many attitudes are negative thanks to the media. "I wish people respected teachers as they do doctors and other professionals. What other profession do you need 6 years of college and make less than $40,000 a year, but be entrusted with the greatest gift of all...Children and their happiness and future?"

So awesome to talk to real teachers. If you see a teacher, give him or her a hug, unless that teacher is in trouble for giving too many hugs to kids... then maybe don’t.

But the consensus matched with my thesis that standards are good, implementing them sucks, and everyone either is oblivious or is freaking out.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but for our kids sake I hope that we can strive for excellence. But if you’re still worried, maybe you should be like me and just get some cats. 

Also, shout out to Chris, my new research assistant! Awesome job helping me with everything involved in this episode. 

*not actual photo

*not actual photo

In the mean time and in-between time, here are some fun links if you would like to learn more about Common Core, testing or that sausage video…maybe don’t click on that one at work. 


Did you enjoy this episode of Nailed It!? Make sure to leave your comments below, check out the last post on oil or check out our entire Nailed It! series on YouTube!