For the past five years, the common Core State Standards (CCSS) have begun to make its mark on the education world. Since the nation’s top school officials and the National Governors Association got together to establish standard skill levels for high school students in basic courses, the Common Core emerged as a possible solution to the educational inequity found across the United States. Currently, 45 states have already shifted to the new Common Core standards for English and mathematics. In addition to new guidelines and academic criteria, the quarterly curriculums are complemented with a variety of standardize assessments to track students academic progress in specific core subjects.
As sensible as Common Core is to the new generation of teaching, there have been plentiful criticisms against the standards from politicians, educators, parents, and most importantly students. Some have even gone to extremes to rally and protest against the program claiming that common core is nothing more than a political and financial move than an educational one. With such claims and disgruntled teachers, we have to ask ourselves whether or not CCSS should be the new path for our future leaders of tomorrow.
So what is Common Core? What is its purpose?
The Common Core standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current millennial thinking. Their objective is simple. Their models and lessons are meant to transform educator’s lesson plans and classroom engagement into a more creative and forward thinking manner to better prepare the students for the success of college and life in general. This is implemented in a variety of subjects such as English, writing, Language Arts, mathematics, science, and the like.
First and foremost, the American public needs to recognize the lack of cohesiveness there was with education between states. This idea of educational inequality, aka the difference in learning results, has become problematic when comparing the nation’s progress as a whole. This means that standards that were acceptable in one state would differ from that of another region’s. By implementing the nation under one system, we will be able to get accurate data that reflects a holistic view of the American education. In addition, the Common Core Standard’s goal is meant to close the academic achievement gaps, increase GPA scores, test scores, lower dropout rates, and improve college entrance and completion statistics. With its increased rigor, higher order thinking, and college-drive mentality, Common Core looks to provide our nation with the opportunity for success.
So how is Common Core implemented in the classroom? What does that opportunity for success look like?
As for the curriculum itself, the standards differentiate from subject-to-subject, but highlight the concept of higher order thinking and strategy for each and every class. Take for example mathematics. The standards begin by laying out a solid foundational understanding for the basics. It then builds upon these foundational skills through new and innovative mathematical techniques and tips such as counting up (addition) when subtracting. Furthermore, these techniques are tested through stronger demanding conceptual mathematic problems that relate to real-world issues. For example, when dealing with percentages or ratios, a math problem will fashioned in a comprehensive way so that it relates to something in their everyday lives such as buying clothes or giving a tip at a restaurant. To make sure the students are able to internalize their work, CCSS looks for students to write an elaborative explanation of how they arrived at to their answer.
Just like mathematics, courses such as Language Arts look for students to read, write, and explain their thoughts and answers with valid and sound evidence. Rather than testing remedial and antiquated retrieval questions, educators are asked to design lessons that have students to think critically. These types of answers, found throughout their assignments, are used consistently so that students know how to cite strong and relatable evidence in any type of text. In addition, CCSS looks to enhance student exposure to informational text. Having this type of exposure allows students to heighten and enrich their style for reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
To complement this type of style of teaching, teachers are asked to further aid their students through differentiated instructions. Differentiated instructions are the way in which a teacher anticipates the response to a variety of students needs in the classroom. This begins by having the teacher analyze the student’s individual data from the Common Core baseline exams. This allows the teacher to understand the strength and weaknesses of each of his or her own students so that the teacher can anticipate which students need more time or more work for a particular benchmark. While the overall style and implementation of D.I. groups differ from teacher-to-teacher, the concept has already shown strong initiatives for student academic achievement.
As for technology, Common Core rest strongly on implementing new assignments for students to engage with computers and iPads. This goes in hand with the new technological advances we are seeing in the world. In addition, it prepares the students for the digital age in researching, reading, and analyzing new information.
While Common Core has made great strides in enhancing the education sector, it has also come with a variety of negative criticism from teachers, parents, and politicians who question its success rate and overall value for our children. One of the biggest complaints seen by educators is the inflexibility and unrealistic time expectations they are asked to do for each lesson. The idea of teaching, group teaching, individual learning, and differentiating groups within a 60 minute or 90 minute time frame (depending on the school) can be quite taxing on a teacher. In addition, educators believe that the inflexibility within the curriculum is jeopardizing the students to learn at the appropriate pace. Parents have even spoken out that the Common Core standards are too test based and that the teacher’s lesson plans are meant more for “teaching for the test” than actual student learning. In addition, many social media photos and teacher gifs have shown the aversion parents have to the new methods, especially in regards to math and whether the old school way of finding the right answer the most efficient and fastest way is better than the CCSS way of implementing multiple steps for a easy and simplistic problem.
Last but not least, many people have questioned whether CCSS is meant more for a political and financial statement than for an educational one. The amount of money invested in such a program is absolutely astronomical, especially for the amount of difficulties and criticism it gained all across the nation. In addition, the political moves governors and senators have used with CCSS to gain votes questions whether or not the CCSS curriculum was meant for the students or for their own personal endeavors.
Regardless, Common Core is still a movement that needs to and will improve over time. While it is just a water droplet trying to substitute effective teaching, it does highlight the need for educational improvement in the United States.