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Demystifying Common Core Standards

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Demystifying Common Core Standards

If you have heard the term “Common Core” but not sure what it means, then read on. According to the official website, “The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” In other words, the main goal of the Common Core Standards is to simplify and systematize American elementary and secondary education, so that students are learning the same materials across the country at the same time.

Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and four territories (Guam, American Samoa Islands, U.S Virgin Island, and the Northern Mariana Islands) have all adopted a single set of standards in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) for kindergarten through grade 12.

Common Core Controversy

Like virtually every initiative of this magnitude, the Common Core is controversial. In a January 21, 2014 Huff Post EDUCATION blog post, “Why Are Parents Revolting Against the Common Core? Start With the English Curriculum,” Professor Nicholas Tampio singles out the Grade 5 ELA Module 1 on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to state his objections. He says, “My critique here is that this module — despite a disclaimer on the website — is a script, and scripts suck the oxygen out of a classroom...The script tells the teachers and students, at all times, what to day and do…The Common Core ELA curriculum does not treat teachers or students with dignity.”

Conversely, the Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released findings in October, 2013 from Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on Teaching in an Era of Change, revealing more balanced support. The study claims, “Ninety-seven percent of teachers surveyed are aware of the Common Core State Standards — 100 percent in the 46 states that are implementing them. They are enthusiastic about implementation, but also realistic, recognizing that it will be challenging and they will need to adjust their teaching practice. Teachers also call for more professional development and resources to implement the standards.”

Not surprisingly, debate ensues on why teachers support Common Core. In a January 19, 2014 Times-Herald article, “[Georgia State Representative] Barge Says Teachers Support Common Core,” teachers and superintendents express a point of view likely held by educators across the country. He asserts, “Don’t make us start all over, and change it every time we do something different…We’ve gone too far. We’ve spent three years getting ready.”

Parents

The debate even has parents talking. One friend of mine and I discussed the topic at length. She expressed her discontent with the fact that every month her kids now have a full- and half-day off to allow for teacher development. At conversation's end however, she admittedly understood a bit more about the Common Core and how both teachers and administrators need ample time to learn — and learn to teach — this very new curriculum effectively in the classroom.

Despite the disagreements one thing is certain—change is hard. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel reinforces that point as he states, “We all need to work together — parents, education support professionals, teachers, administrators, communities and elected officials — to make sure we get this right.”

What conversations are you hearing among parents, teachers, and administrators in your town about Common Core Standards? Any strategies you can share for shortening the learning curve and improving efficacy?

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