CHICAGO – It appears Common Core will soon be affecting the potty habits of students in one Chicago elementary school.
According to a faculty memo provided to Education Week blogger Anthony Cody, teachers in an unidentified Chicago pre-K-8 school are being instructed to sign up for a “restroom time slot” during which their entire class can use the facilities each day.
The specific daily time slot is designed to help “maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time.” It will also prevent “multiple groups of students” from competing for use of “the facilities” at any one time, according to the memo.
The memo also informs teachers that potty breaks “should last only five minutes,” and encourages them to “use your watch or stopwatch to time the students and praise them when they meet the behavior and time expectations.”
There’s even a plan for those times when nature calls outside of a student’s scheduled five-minute time slot.
“In addition to scheduled restroom breaks, students will be given restroom passes to use if they need to use the restroom outside of the scheduled time,” the unnamed school principal writes in the memo. “Students will be given two restroom passes to use between now and the end of the quarter. They can choose to hold on to them and trade them in for a reward at the end of the quarter.”
While the memo doesn’t link the strange directive directly to the new Common Core standards and their accompanying tests, Education Week’s Cody believes the two are related.
“This memo is evidence of a level of administrative micromanagement that is symptomatic of intense pressure to raise test scores,” which will soon be based on the new learning standards, Cody writes.
He continues: “According to my source, this pre-K-8 school was recently downgraded to a ‘Level 3,’ the lowest possible score, meaning that closure is a distinct possibility, if scores do not improve. Add to that the fact that new Pearson tests will be based on the Common Core, and this school is in trouble. Scores on Common Core tests have been significantly lower than scores on previous tests in every state where they have been given. And note that teacher evaluations will include their student’s performance on tests as well.”
There’s also another strong indication that Common Core was on the principal’s mind when he or she wrote the potty memo. In a paragraph detailing the process for handling the extra bathroom passes, the school leader directs teachers to “have students fill in the ‘time out’ and ‘time in'” portion of each pass, which “will help them practice the CCS (Common Core standard) of telling time with both digital and analog clocks.”
While “pottying en masse” won’t help make students “college and career ready” — as Common Core promises to do — it will help prepare youngsters to work in a heavily restrictive environment (such as a factory) in which too many bathroom breaks can cause friction between employees and supervisors.
We can’t pin this strange, new bathroom directive on Common Core advocates — such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — but we can say that their top-down approach to education is going to scare a lot more school leaders into adopting heavy-handed policies that will make schools feel more like prisons for both students and their teachers.