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Arne Duncan's Common Core Threatens to Standardize Burnout -- Not Learning

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By Anthony Mei, 16

Overworked, sleep-deprived burnouts -- that's the most likely result of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's vigorous promotion of Common Core standards, meant to standardize learning but, in reality, poses a serious threat to students' well-being.

Here's what happens when public school teachers are faced with making classes more rigorous: They heap more work on students by adding more classwork or homework. While increasing the workload might work for some kids, this system leaves all students with too much work and an absence of free time.

I support the department's push to make student learning more rigorous. If we hold students to higher expectations, we might better compete with other countries, right? Some schools can achieve this goal pretty well through special teaching methods or technological assistance.

Especially at their developing ages, children should not have to spend more time on schoolwork. Rather than allowing children to develop their minds and enjoy the social and health benefits of playtime, these rigorous standards will probably add more work to a child's daily homework time. They limit a child's free time to develop, make friends and learn valuable life skills. On school nights, the need to finish extra work may cut into a child's sleep time, while the stress of these assignments would affect both students and parents.

And these problems would likely intensify for teens. High school students like me already have too much work: I already don't get enough sleep, am twice as stressed as a high school student should be and don't have enough free time. If common core standards become more rigorous, high school teachers will very likely assign even more work.

The Result: Overworked. Sleep-deprived. Burnt out.

So there must be guidelines on appropriate ways to teach common core standards. Instead of giving schools the full freedom to plan their lessons, the Dept. of Education should recommend appropriate lesson plans. Regardless of what officials suggest, there has to be some restriction on schools other than just assigning more work.

Students need to learn the core standards -- just giving us homework is not teaching. If schools start to give excessive work, don't be surprised when students begin falling asleep in class, parents start complaining about family stress, and America's students become overworked while failing to retain an information overload.

Secretary Duncan has apologized for his unfortunate comments about how Common Core standards undermine the children of white suburban moms. What he hasn't done is change his department's policy on every student's well-being.

Your call, Mr. Duncan.


Anthony Mei is a senior at Walter Payton College Prep in Chicago. He plans on continuing his study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in college.