Thanks to the IL parents and teachers who contributed to this article.
EAG News -
by Ben Velderman,
CHICAGO – Two Chicago-area parents and a veteran educator say they aren’t surprised by the recent revelation that one of the city’s pre-K-8 schools is cracking down on kids’ bathroom breaks in order to “maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time.”
As first reported by Education Week, the principal of the unidentified school is requiring teachers to sign up for a “restroom time slot” during which their entire class can use the facilities each day. Teachers have also been instructed that potty breaks “should last only five minutes,” and that students will only be allowed two unscheduled trips to the facilities per quarter.
Apparently a number of schools in Illinois – and presumably throughout the United States – are dealing with a similar problem of students taking an excessive number of bathroom breaks, though none (as far as we can tell) have taken such extreme measures to deal with it.
According to our three sources, a growing number of young elementary students are hiding out in school bathrooms as a way of coping with the stress caused by the new learning approaches required by Common Core, the set of nationalized math and English standards that schools in some 45 states are scrambling to implement.
For example, our sources say young students are finding Common Core math problems so confusing – and the amount of class time devoted to working on them so overwhelming – that they’re looking for ways to escape the classroom just to get a mental break. Some elementary students have reportedly started an “I Hate Math Club” that meets on the playground during recess to share horror stories from math class.
One veteran, Chicago-area elementary school teacher, who spoke with EAGnews on the condition of anonymity, says educators are under so much pressure to prepare students for the upcoming Common Core-aligned standardized tests – known as the PARCC exam, which will debut in 2015 – that they’re ramping up math and reading instruction and eliminating a number of other activities from the school day.
The result is that students in the early grades are feeling so “bogged down” that “during the last hour of the day, they’re unteachable,” she says.
Her students are dealing with the stress not only by frequently asking to use the bathroom, but also by saying they have a headache or stomach ache. The teacher adds that students are even blowing their noses and sharpening their pencils more than normal, anything that allows them to stop working and catch their breath.
Youngsters feeling ‘overwhelmed and panicky’
As one of the leaders of “Stop Common Core Illinois,” Erin Raasch says she’s heard similar stories from parents across the state, especially from those with kids in elementary schools that have doubled the amount of daily math instruction – to two hours – in order to prepare students for the upcoming PARCC tests.