Common core: right idea, wrong method

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

The adoption of Common Core standards for education has become a hotly contested issue with Indiana officially removing the standards last week and other states looking to slow or halt
their implementation.

A Time Magazine article said the law Indiana passed to get rid of Common Core won’t radically change Indiana’s curriculum and that Oklahoma is moving toward creating a curriculum which will look a lot like Common Core for testing purposes. According to The Washington Post, a few states are wanting to re-brand Common Core by calling it things like “Iowa Core” or “Next Generation Sunshine Standards” because of the Common Core’s suggested link to the federal government.

According to the Common Core website, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed in 2009 by members of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, not the federal government. The Common Core website said the standards have been adopted by 44 states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The standards provide educational standards in English language arts and mathematics to be achieved by each grade level from kindergarten to 12th grade.

The standards are meant to ensure that students in the United States are provided a quality education in English and math that will increase their performance in careers, college and life.

I believe the Common Core is a good initiative, but states using common core tests to rate teachers and determine whether students can advance to the next grade are moving too fast to rely on the standards.

On the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) website, the foundation explains that Common Core does not require states to evaluate teachers with Common Core tests or tell teachers how to teach or test their students. States should hold off on making those decisions until teachers can adjust to teaching with Common Core and students familiarize with Common Core tests.

What I see as one of the best improvements provided by Common Core standards is the introduction of greater amounts of non-fiction reading material. In high school, I was very interested in history class, but the information I copied from the Power Point presentations didn’t stick with me as well as the information I read in the text.

The standards are more rigorous than what some students are used to because what students are used to isn’t up to par with the top performing students in other nations.

The United States was ranked 35th in the world on the Program for International Student Assessment’s 2012 report which ranks nations based on the math, reading and science performance of 15-year-olds. The Wall Street Journal points out that the data from recent years reflects a decline in each category for the U.S.

However, if the mission of Common Core is really to prepare students better for life after high school, we should not see an increase in standardized testing, but teachers allowed to use more creative teaching strategies to engage their students. Tests will still be necessary to check student progress at regular intervals, but teachers shouldn’t have to spend large amounts of class time teaching to the test.

Tougher education standards like the Common Core standards can make the American education system more competitive so long as we have parents who prepare their students to enter the learning environment and teachers who are given the freedom to decide how to get their students to these educational goals.