Common Core threatens good teaching

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I teach Financial Literacy as a semester-long social studies course in a Chicago public high school. This quarter we focused on professional skills. My students must find living arrangements on a fixed salary, then explain their plan to the class.

Students must calculate their biweekly net pay (based on last quarter’s grades, e.g. an “A” earns you $42,000 a year), and living expenses and search for a place to live on websites such as Craigslist. They quickly realize that students who earn a higher income have an easier time finding a good place to live, while those who didn’t fare as well had better find a roommate. Some might even have to live in their parents’ attic — and explain that in their presentation!

This is one of the most popular lessons I teach each year. They will (hopefully) be moving out of their parents’ homes soon, and this lesson is usually the first time they have considered how well they might, or might not, fare. They love comparing who got the “better deal” on the “coolest” apartment.

Students must use core math skills; computer literacy and community mapping to find a place to live; and communication skills in their presentation and negotiations of “what’s fair” between roommates. Some students argue that since their partners/roommates might be contributing unequal amounts of money, then that person’s bedroom should be the size of a walk-in closet. We all get a good laugh and move on to Real World Budgeting.

It’s a tremendous shame, then, that this style of teaching is quickly going out of style.

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