American RadioWorks | Hearing is Seeing
Students in Kentucky taking a Common Core math test. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Greater Expectations

The United States is in the midst of a huge education reform. The Common Core State Standards are a new set of expectations for what students should learn each year in school. The standards have been adopted by most states, though there's plenty of controversy about them among activists and politicians. Most teachers, however, actually like the standards. This American RadioWorks documentary takes listeners into classrooms to explore how the standards are changing teaching and learning. Teachers say Common Core has the potential to help kids who are behind, as well as those who are ahead. But many teachers have big concerns about the Common Core tests. The new, tougher tests are meant to let the nation know how kids are really doing in school -- but bad scores could get teachers and principals fired.

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    Greater Expectations transcript

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  • 08.28.14

    Are you smarter than a Common Core student? Try a Common Core test

    New Common Core tests are supposed to measure students' ability to think critically, analyze information, and cite evidence as well as test their conceptual understanding of mathematics and their ability to apply math to the real world. See how you'd do on a Common Core test.
  • 08.28.14

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in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Encourage people to tell their own stories

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From: Elaine B., Memphis, TN

I tell stories to children who are falling behind academically in the public school, and I tell stories to women in the county correctional system. I provide opportunities for the students and inmates to share their personal stories, and I promote listening as a valuable skill. When people, young or old, are given the opportunity to tell their stories to other people who really listen, transformation happens. Poverty erodes self image and makes us think we do not matter, that we are invisible. By listening, neighbors, family members, teachers, co-workers and church members can pull each other out of poverty's destructive forces.

Last year I gave each of the children a disposable camera when they went home for the holiday break, instructing them to take pictures of their family. I told them I would develop the pictures and make an album for each child. They would be expected to stand up and tell us the story of "My Family and the Holidays." One boy used all 24 exposures taking pictures of the television. He took 24 pictures of 24 programs on television. Each child took pictures that included images of the television set. In every case the television was the most photographed member of the family and a central character in the holiday story.

This project turned out to be very telling about the children and their struggles to succeed in school. No one at home has the time or capacity to listen to the children, look into their faces and attend to their narratives and needs. Poverty robs mothers and fathers of their time for parenting. Poverty robs parents of their self worth and their dreams. So they finally give up on even trying to pass along anything positive. Face to face sessions of storytelling and story listening can open new windows for change and hope. Sitting in a safe circle where all stories are heard and respected as sacred gifts, we can hear people's dreams coming back to life. Each human being is so much more than what they possess or how much money they keep in the bank account. Each story is a reflection of power and purpose. A story shared is a story made real.


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American RadioWorks | Hearing is Seeing
Students in Kentucky taking a Common Core math test. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Greater Expectations

The United States is in the midst of a huge education reform. The Common Core State Standards are a new set of expectations for what students should learn each year in school. The standards have been adopted by most states, though there's plenty of controversy about them among activists and politicians. Most teachers, however, actually like the standards. This American RadioWorks documentary takes listeners into classrooms to explore how the standards are changing teaching and learning. Teachers say Common Core has the potential to help kids who are behind, as well as those who are ahead. But many teachers have big concerns about the Common Core tests. The new, tougher tests are meant to let the nation know how kids are really doing in school -- but bad scores could get teachers and principals fired.

Recent Posts

  • 08.29.14

    Greater Expectations transcript

  • 08.28.14

    A teacher loses faith in the Common Core

    New York teacher Kevin Glynn was once a big fan of the Common Core, but he says the standardized testing that's come along with it is reducing students to test scores and narrowing what gets taught in schools.
  • 08.28.14

    Are you smarter than a Common Core student? Try a Common Core test

    New Common Core tests are supposed to measure students' ability to think critically, analyze information, and cite evidence as well as test their conceptual understanding of mathematics and their ability to apply math to the real world. See how you'd do on a Common Core test.
  • 08.28.14

    Questioning the Common Core tests

    In the United States, education standards come with tests. Most students haven't been tested on the Common Core yet. But in one state where they have, the controversy is so intense that it's threatening to bring down the Common Core altogether.