What’s the deal with Common Core?

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By MjolnirPants [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a hot topic: Common Core State Standards. But ask someone what it means and you might get anything from increased testing to required teaching of sexual education. Not even all teachers understand what CCSS is and what it means for them.

So, let’s break it down to get to the root of what this is and why YOU should care.

First, Common Core is a set of English language arts (writing, reading, grammar, spelling) and Math standards that are written for grade kindergarten to twelve (K-12). They provide clear goals and benchmarks about which topics and skills should be learned when. They are supposedly based on education research evidence. However, articles published over the last two years make a strong case that the standards are based more on best guesses by education experts and companies involved in creating education resources than in any actual research based evidence.

They are NOT a curriculum.

A standard is what is expected to be the end result. Like an house blueprint, it shows what goes where. The actual construction of the house is left up to the team that does the actual building, with the end goal being a match to the blueprints. A curriculum is the guide to HOW the standards are met, it is the road map to what is taught when and how it is taught. Curriculum today is generally a set of materials that schools can purchase to implement in the classrooms. For example, Houghton Mifflin creates sets of reading curriculum materials that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Aligned means that the materials presented in the curriculum, if taught by a highly qualified teacher using best teaching practices, will allow students to master the CCSS for their grade level.

Ok, this is going to sound nuts, but it is GOOD that we have national education norms that allow ALL children to learn the same topics/skills at roughly the same time.

It’s good for kids who move a lot: they won’t miss out on a math topic because their last school taught it in the next grade, but their new school taught it in the previous grade. It’s good a country for us to ensure that all students are learning the same things. It creates a national education identity, where all citizens know the same core concepts about math, reading, and writing.

While there are aspects of CCSS that are good, if created and applied correctly, there is a great deal of controversy about these standards as well. One issue is related to instructional material and methods. Another to the extensive and time consuming assessment schedule. There are many who see problems with the research and theory behind the standards themselves, as well as how much input actual classroom teachers had in creating the standards.

The main takeaway right now is this: CCSS are probably not going anywhere right now. They might change over time. Parts of them might be adapted to better suit our students and our families within our American education system. However, having a national framework of knowledge that all students should acquire by high school graduation is more than here to stay.

Stay tuned to my personal opinion on CCSS, where I see issues, and what we can do together to move the discussion forward.

~Meg

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