Elementary school is usually characterized as a place where children learn in more fun and engaging ways. It is a place where our educational paths begin. Over the years, educational standards have improved, and if you walked into an elementary school class today, it may not seem like the class you remember.
All schools within the United States are required to follow the Common Core standards for each subject within their grade level. These standards are revised and updated every so often in order to keep the country’s education up to par with the rest of the world. Common Core standards are broken down by grade and subject in order to provide clear standards as to what each student should be able to do.
There are a few College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for every subject that outline the ultimate goals that each grade level takes steps towards achieving. This is then followed by the individual goals that students should be able to achieve once they complete their current grade level. For example, by the time they graduate, all students are expected to “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text” as one of the reading College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard. By the end of the school year, a kindergarten students is expected to be able to “with prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text” in order to lay a foundation for the ultimate goal they will achieve at the end of their schooling.
Of course, these standards have not changed very much from when we were all in elementary school, but the ways in which teachers achieve these standards may not seem similar to the ways in which we were taught. Kelly Marini is a first grade teacher at Lonsdale Elementary school. She comments that “there are some aspects of [her] teaching style that have changed, but [her] philosophy has remained quite steady since [she] began teaching in 1998.”
Kindergarten students at Northern Lincoln Elementary School in January 2017 work on assignments.
Photo by Mary Lind.
However, she finds that the biggest challenge is the testing that accompanies the new standards. “As an early childhood educator, I believe in play and a child-centered approach. We don’t have time for play and the arts like we used to,” states Marini. “We assess much more now. Early childhood teachers have to think about preparing students for standardized testing in the older grades, which is something I never thought I would have to do.”
The fun has not been totally lost though. Many of the programs we remember are still there such as theatre, book buddies, and pen pals. There are also new programs that technology has produced such as computer programing. Senior Alexa Labossiere has a sister who is a fifth grader at Central Elementary. Labossiere finds herself jealous of some of the opportunities that her sister are presented with that she never had. “My sister has done some cool history assignments which have been interactive. She had a day where they dressed up as colonial people which I never did,” commented Labossiere. “Also, she went to Slater mill, took a milling class, and then did some tasks in class for the next couple weeks that were similar to what children in mills would do. She played field hockey in gym recently which I was jealous of. “
The biggest change Labossiere found between her and her sister’s education is that of their accelerated groups. “When I was in elementary school, I was in Challenge and then the Academically Talented (AT) program where I was taken out a couple times of week to have personal projects, extra reading, or lessons,” comments Labossiere. “I also was in harder spelling and reading groups. The elementary school doesn't have Challenge or AT now. The accelerated group now is taken out to do accelerated math. There are still accelerated reading groups, but they don't do spelling anymore.”
The world of education is ever changing in order to keep up with the modern world. While some things do change, at the heart of it all, the goal is to continue educating to achieve their greatest potential.