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States have been attempting to improve education through the implementation of Common Core, but their tactics are failing before they even began. Many parents are choosing to have their students opt out of taking the standardized Common Core tests—and its enough students that its raising awareness.
In New York, there are between 60 to 70 percent of students who are refusing to take the exams. There has also been considerable resistance in Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, with more states predicted to hop on the bandwagon this spring when tests are administered again.
U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt tries to ease parents by informing them that the state tests are meant to simply serve students in underprivileged populations and give teachers and parents an idea of where their student stands educationally. There has been encouragement from Barack Obama to adapt to Common Core as well with a program called Race To The Top. However, each state is free to develop their own tests. This is why there is a variation among states and the responses that parents are giving to Common Core.
Much of the criticism and concern with Common Core may also have to do with the amount of tests administered; between kindergarten to grade 12, there are over 113 tests administered just for Common Core outside of other test requirements for class course material. Only 17 of these required by the federal government, but the rallying for No Child Left Behind made pushed for teachers to keep up a closer watch on their students’ progress. Though No Child Left Behind and Common Core may be working wonders for some students, bringing them to higher and better levels of education, there is a huge pressure put on these students at the same time to improve year after year.
Schools are working with parents in some ways and allowing opt-outs for whatever reason, while others are passing laws that only allow 45 hours of testing per school year. These states seem to understand more about how much is expected of students these days. There are more discussions about Common Core and Race To The Top that are still happening in Congress, which might change some of these issues for the better in the future.
For the original Huffington Post article, click here.
At the DREAM Charter School in New York, students have been partaking in belly breathing, meditating, and other calming exercises to develop mindfulness. This seems difficult to understand: though meditating has been proven to be helpful and calming, how does it relate to getting a better education? Shouldn’t these students be focusing on math, reading, and writing? Wrong. These students are working on increasing their mindfulness, or their focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the creative world around them.
Students are still learning their basic subjects, but taking time out for meditation is built into their schedules for the day. Since most schools, at any level, are considered to be a stressful environment, the meditation times give children the chance to calm themselves and clear their minds so that they can better focus on their studies for the day.
This method is also beginning to be applied to work settings as well, especially for big companies like Google, Safeway, General Mills, and Aetna. The reason that mindfulness workshops are becoming so popular is because high stress levels cost American companies around $200 billion to $300 billion a year, simply from less motivation to be productive when one is stressed. Having mindfulness sessions decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and only after 3 consistent days of meditating, you can change your psychological stress. Mindfulness also boosts creativity and focus, which is great for work settings.
The CEO of Aetna commented on the great effects that mindfulness training was having on his employees. They reported having better sleep, less stress, and more productivity in their week. They gained about 62 minutes of extra productivity per week, and Aetna has made $3,000 more per year from the employees.
Though mindfulness gives students or workers a window into their thoughts and stressors, it is producing lasting effects in the way that people are retaining information, applying themselves, focusing, and being more creative and innovative in their workplace. Taking time throughout our days to self-reflect and relax for 20 minutes may have seemed like slacking off, but now, those breaks might become more encouraged because of mindfulness.