Jun 10, 2013

Common Core and the Uninformed

With the big push by many states to adopt Common Core standards, one problem that we face is the backlash from parent groups, blogs, and social media.  For every site that promotes the sharing and use of common core resources to make the transition easier, there are 5 parent sites that spew forth disgust for common core.  Now I'm not going to point fingers or list links here because I don't want to promote a vicious circle.  However if you do a basic Google Search for common core, you are bound to stumble across one.   So if you want, go ahead and search.  My point here is to list some of the grievances parent groups have and to also focus on some positives I think we will see with Common Core. 

First with the grievances.  Many sites one the web point out that Common Core was handed down by textbook companies and the government and that the curriculum is being written by textbook publishers.  In actuality, the standards were developed by the US State Department of Education along with the guidance of David Coleman.  Many parent websites will point out that Coleman works for McGraw Hill.  It is true that he worked for them, but he left in 2007 - two years before the standards initiative began.  What they fail to point out is that he is the 9th President of the College Board, who is responsible for developing SAT and AP standards.  And although a large market has been created for textbook publishers to align their textbooks to common core, schools do not necessarily have to adopt their books.  As long as the curriculum they are using aligns to common core, they can use what they want.  In addition, what many on the outside do not realize is that in the past when states developed their own standards, you would have a situation in which students who moved from state to state were held to different standards.  Books were aligned differently from state to state depending on publisher of the curriculum and the standards set forth by each state.  This often caused confusion and loss of credits when high school students had their high school careers scrambled by relocation.

Another problem many parent groups have is that they feel the common core standards are dumbing down curriculum by teaching math differently and by changing what students read.  Although there is a push to infuse more non-fiction, the goal of the standards is to widen the breadth of material that students read, so they can read more critically.  Common Core also focuses on getting students used to explaining how they arrive at a solution in addition to being able to tell the solution.

With Common Core, I believe our students will be held to a stricter standard and will be taught to think critically while infusing 21st technology and literacy skills that they will encounter in the workplace.  In the past, students faced a culture shock when they left high school to go to college and yet another when they left college to enter the workplace.  I believe the goal of common core is to introduce students to a different way of thinking and a whole new set of skills.  Many will say that Common Core is tied to the end of year assessments.  While this may be true, I am not a huge advocate of teaching to a test.  I believe we rely too heavily on assessments.  However, the standards themselves and the skills they seek to instill in students will help to shape a future workforce that will allow us to be more competitive in the global marketplace (is that enough cliched terminology for you?  But seriously).

One positive side of Common Core is that in the past, teachers who wanted to supplement curriculum with outside activities either had to make their own or find teacher created activities on the internet that aligned with state standards.  The difficulty was that finding such a thing was often difficult, as there were few resources shared on the web that aligned to state standards.  Now, with common core, teachers have a larger network with which they can share common core aligned lessons and activities.

My goal here is not to change the minds of parents, teachers, or community members.  It is to push you, the reader, to to your research.  When you come across a blog or letter to the editor that screams about how we need to stop common core at all costs, I urge you to compare what your state's education standards looked like before and what they will look like with common core.  If you don't know where to look, start here: 

If you expect your kids to do their homework, do yours as well.  Steer clear of the knee jerk commentaries on websites and social media and look into the answers on your own.  Start a dialog with your school district administrator - see what they think, what they are doing, and how it impacts your student.