Every Saturday morning at 10 a.m., Jason Zimba begins a math tutoring session for his two young daughters with the same ritual. Claire, 4, draws on a worksheet while Abigail, 7, pulls addition problems written on strips of paper out of an old Kleenex box decorated like a piggy bank.The theory behind CC was that common tests were the ticket.
If she gets the answer "lickety-split," as her dad says, she can check it off. If she doesn't, the problem goes back in the box, to try the following week.
"I would be sleeping in if I weren't frustrated," Zimba says of his Saturday-morning lessons, which he teaches in his pajamas. He feels the math instruction at Abigail's public elementary school in Manhattan is subpar — even after the school switched to the Common Core State Standards.
But Zimba, a mathematician by training, is not just any disgruntled parent. He's one of the guys who wrote the Common Core.
And four years after signing off on the final draft of the standards, he spends his weekends trying to make up for what he considers the lackluster curriculum at his daughter's school, and his weekdays battling the lackluster curriculum and teaching at schools around the country that are struggling to shift to the Common Core.
Zimba gave up an academic career in which he had the freedom to wonder about abstract physics problems in the peace and quiet of his Vermont barn. But, he says, "I'm now participating in a much more urgent problem."
That problem is how to elevate the academic achievement of American students, especially the most disadvantaged, so the country can maintain its competitive advantage in the global economy. These days, Zimba and his colleagues acknowledge better standards aren't enough.
"I used to think if you got the assessments right, it would virtually be enough," he says. "In the No Child Left Behind world, everything follows from the test."
Now, he says, "I think it's curriculum."
The Man Behind the Curtain
Common standards would produce common tests would produce common curricula.
No more race to the bottom.