Imagining School

Boldly Reshaping Education

What do you think about the Common Core?

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By: Alex Wenzel

The Common Core State Standards Initiative asserts that the standards are important because, “High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that are aligned to the expectations in college and careers. The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad” (Common Core, 2012)

Defense #1:  Shared standards create consistency for comparisons

States previously developed their own standards independently.  This made it difficult to meaningful compare one state’s results with another.  Now this will be easy to do.

The standards are also internationally benchmarked.  Comparing U.S. scores with other countries will be easier to do and provide more meaningful results.  We will now be able to accurately see how U.S. students are performing in comparison with students in other countries.

Defense #2:  The standards were developed through an informed process

“The standards are evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are informed by other top performing countries … International benchmarking played a significant role in both sets of standards.” (Common Core, 2012)

Collaborations of different states worked together to develop standards that are based on research, current standards, and international standards.  They compared different standards as well as the needs of the work force and college readiness.  The standards reflect the results of a well-informed process and are believed to prepare students for rigorous content knowledge as well as skills such as critical thinking important for jobs and college success.

Defense #3:  Common standards promote collaboration between states

“Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies.” (Common Core, 2012)

States can now easily collaborate on

  • Teaching materials
  • Common Assessments
  • Teacher Preparation

The saying, ‘two heads are better than one,’ seems appropriate.  States working in collaboration can create higher quality tools for teaching, learning and assessment.

By having the states themselves collaborate on this, it takes away some of the power and money companies that create assessments and instructional material for profit.  “States … are currently collaborating to develop common assessments that will be aligned to the standards and replace existing end of year state assessments.” (Common Core, 2012)  As we have been discussing the ‘testing controversy’, it is great to see that the control of these assessments will now be in the hands of state collaborations with a sole focus on learning, rather than independent companies with a focus on profit.

Counter Arguments:

The standards are still vague and broad.  Like any attempt to create common standards, it is highly political and controversial.  This forces creators of standards to make them very broad and open to interpretation.  Being too specific creates a lot of conflict.  Because the scope of these standards is now national, it makes that problem even more prominent.  Hence the standards remain vague.  So is this really that meaningful of a tool to inform what is happening in the classroom every day?  As teachers do now, they will continue to rely on the instructional materials such as textbooks to determine what to teach.

By design, the standards may not be rigorous enough.  They were developed to meet the middle of the road and are less rigorous than some state standards.  Combined with the lack in specificity, they may not be an effective or practical resource for many states and schools.

Another major issue is the Common Core only covers English and Math.  The problem is implied in this quote by the Common Core State Standards Initiative:

“English language arts and math were the subjects chosen for the Common Core State Standards because they are areas upon which students build skill sets which are used in other subjects. They are also the subjects most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.” (Common Core, 2012)

The problem created by No Child Left Behind is a testing culture that has many negative impacts on education.  Common standards for testing will only amplify this problem.  As English and Math skills are the only ones being assessed, they are then the only ones that matter.  We have seen the negative results of this emphasis already as arts programs close and more and more time and money are invested into Math, Reading, and Writing programs with little evidence of success.

References:

Frequently Asked Questions. Common Core State Standards Initiative. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers.  2012.  Retrieved on October 7, 2013 from: http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions

Author: wenzelalex

International Educator interested in rethinking education for a sustainable future.

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