Common Core State Standard – A Rushed Out Idea to Standardize Education?

Girl drawing back to schoolEverything always looks good on paper when you draft out your ideas. However, often times when you take the idea from paper and turn it into a product, it doesn’t always turn out how you’ve envisioned it. The Common Core State Standard, who was developed by the nation’s governors and education commissioners through their representative organizations, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), is an example of such an envisioned idea.

The Common Core State Standard allows collaboration among states to develop textbooks, digital media and other teaching material, implementation of common comprehensive assessments that replaces existing state testing systems to measure student performance annually, which would give teachers feedback on what they know and don’t know, and to develop tools and other supports to help educators and schools ensure all students are able to learn the new standards.

State education standards have been around since the 1990’s, however, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s, that every state created their own learning standards that specified what students in grades K-12 should be able to do. A three-minute video by the Common Core State Standards Initiative explains that the old standards did not guarantee that students from different states were learning the same topics, at a particular grade level. The problem is that it puts some students at a disadvantage once they enter into the real world, because some will have necessary skills for a particular occupation, while the others would not. With such promising expectations from the Common Core State Standards, why are some teachers, principals, and even a former Mathematician from the U.S Department of Education, against it?

First off, the new Common Core State Standards will cost taxpayers a lot of money; the textbooks, digital media and other teaching material, and implementation of common comprehensive assessments will come from us. States will spend up to an estimated $10 billion up front, then as much as $800 million per year for the first seven years that the program is up and running. Much of the cost is based off of new, Common Core-aligned textbooks and curriculum, but the added expenses also include teacher training, technology upgrades, testing and assessment.

A resignation letter, written by a High School Physics teacher from Utah, Stuart Harper, circulated the web a few weeks ago voicing his opinion the Common Core. In short, Harper calls it, “Unsound, of poor quality, take power from local government and further empower federal agencies and policy makers. More importantly, they’re enactment and unconstitutional, both in Utah and in the nation… I was aware of the core before signing on, and though I did not approve of it, I gave my word in contract to teach whatever curriculum I was given.”

Principal Liz Phillips of a New York school in the PS321 district, believes that the state-mandated Common Core-aligned standard tests in English Language Arts is “badly designed”. Philips had sent an email to the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students regarding the exam that the student’s recently had, saying, “Children were wonderful and worked incredibly hard… However, the teachers and administration are truly devastated by what a terrible test it was and how little it will tell us about our students.” Other principals in her New York City’s District 2 are supporting her as well, and together, they’ve posted on the NYC Public School Parents blog, saying, that the questions are poorly constructed and often ambiguous…Teachers are not permitted to use (or even discuss) the questions or the results to inform their teaching; students and families receive little or no specific feedback.”

Mathematician Ze’ev Wurman, who is a former official in the U.S Department of Education, also believes that the Common Core fails to equal other international competitors in terms of required course load for college readiness. In an interview with Education Next, Wurman says, “Four-year state colleges overwhelmingly consist of at least three years of high school mathematics which include algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry or beyond. Compared to the old State Standards, the new Common Core State Standards omit some content that is considered part of algebra 2… they do not expect algebra to be taught in grade 8 and instead defer it to high school.”

This Common Core, in its current state, is in an experimental phase, in the sense, that this curriculum was never used before anywhere else. Since the NGA and CCSSO did not slowly implement the new Common Core State Standard and jumped the gun to quickly replace the old State Standard to essentially, bring our kids in line with international students, I feel as if there wasn’t enough time being put into observing how this would affect students, parents and the faculty members of the school. Unfortunately, because we cannot pull out X amount of kids from across the country, and test them with the new Common Core guidelines, the NGA and CCSSO are instead, are trying to get each state to adopt the Common Core, and gather data from it to see how it is working.

I propose, instead of throwing out the old standard, and quickly implementing the new Common Core throughout 45 states and the District of Columbia, we could instead, revise the existing State Standard. Since the Common Core is an entirely new standard created from scratch, it has the potential to flop and unfortunately, based on recent news, it looks like it is heading down this path. If however, we use the existing s in these States and improve the areas in which they are lacking, we could keep a familiar curriculum that students, teachers and parents know of, while slowly implementing new teaching methods to make sure that our kids succeed.

For example, a few math problems have been posted online in comparing how the new methodology of teaching basic math, involves over the top visual representations, terminology, lack of completeness of a problem, and understanding the new math language to obtaining your final answer. The goal of the Common Core is to show “how and why”, vs. the old method, which was considered, “just doing it”. Reading through the comment section, there are a numerous amounts of people who are saying that some of these questions should just be common sense, but they’re not. A sample math problem, posted by Amelia, who is a parent with twins in the third grade, says that the math her children are learning, does not make sense. In her example, 5(5) + 4 – 1 = 28, while the new Common Core method states, 5(5) + 4 – 1 = 13. In regards to algebra, the parenthesis states multiplication, but instead, the new Common Core method states the parenthesis is addition.

In it’s wake, however, there are people who support the Common Core and Jason Zimba, who is a lead writer of the Common Core math standard is trying to squash the biggest myth surrounding the Common Core, in that, “Like it or not, the standards allow a lot of freedom. People think the Common Core is a curriculum, and it’s not. The curriculum authors are going to interpret the standards in different ways. There will be a lot of variety, and it doesn’t make sense to me to pick one thing and say that’s the Common Core”

Corestandards.org has an exhausted list of supporters for the Common Core. Dan Domenech, Executive Director of American Association of School Administrators is one of them. “AASA is pleased to support the process for the creation of Common Core State Standards currently led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. We clearly understand the need for common standard, voluntarily adopted by each state, if the United States is to remain competitive in the global education environment. We also support the underlying concept of higher, clearer, fairer standards and agree that they will contribute to improve the quality of instruction in our schools and raising of student achievement levels.”

Although the Common Core allows collaboration amongst states to develop this new found age of learning for our kids to be able to complete with their international counterparts, there are major drawbacks preventing it from taking off and receiving the support it needs to have a permanent home in our educational system. Despite those who created the program say that schools will essentially have their freedom to teach what and how they want, and other supporters from big name companies like Intel, who all believe that it will help the United States remain competitive in the global education environment, they just don’t have their foot in the door with supporters. With funding for the curriculum costing tax payers a lot of money to order new textbooks aligned with the curriculum, teachers and principals agreeing that the new Common Core is flawed and of poor quality as its test tell very little about their students, and the failure to equal other international competitors in terms of required course load for college readiness, it’s just a few reasons to sum up why the Common Core State Standard will not work.

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2 Comments to “Common Core State Standard – A Rushed Out Idea to Standardize Education?”

  1. I will be having to implement the Common Core in my classroom when I begin teaching next year. I will say that it is encouraging that every state has voluntarily decided to adopt these standards. I do think that says something about them, seeing as many states are incredibly independent in the way that they do education. The fact that they all agreed to do this says something, I think.

    One thing I am definitely a bit hesitant on is all that money being spent. Education is one of the biggest businesses for America, like it or not, and I feel like this is only adding to that. There have been countless studies on the usefulness to textbooks and how they have many errors, are incredibly expensive, and become quickly outdated. Obviously, the outdated part adds to the fact that they will need a new edition to sell to the schools and teachers…

    One thing I do want to mention, however, is exactly what the lead writer mentions about the Common Core. It is not curriculum, and it truly does offer freedom to the teacher in how they want to go about their content. If there are areas that are lacking, I would assume that is partly the teacher’s responsibility. What I mean by that is there are definitely big areas that teachers are required to teach on based on if they’re on the Common Core or not. However, if there is something that is not on there, that doesn’t automatically mean they can’t teach it. In fact, if a teacher finds certain content more valuable than another, isn’t that their choice to teach it or not? I think it adds a more dynamic feel to the classroom.

    I will admit, that I have something against standardized testing. I think it is foolish to assume that statewide standardized tests can truly reflect all student’s learning in the classroom. I think this can be a big deterrent for many students from going to college, based on what they score on a particular test that may or may not be completely relevant to their learning. I know that Common Core should somewhat solve this problem, but I don’t think standardized tests are the solution by any means. And I guess this final paragraph kind of blurs my position, a bit. I’m not 100% set if I like the Common Core, though I do know that I think there is certainly value to be had. I do agree that it is clearly not “finished”, in the sense that it is still being tested to see how effective it is. I hope we can get something good soon so that we can finally get some respect on the international level, though we haven’t exactly earned that yet anyways.

  2. I also think that implementing the Common Core Standards in schools before it was fully tested was jumping the gun a bit. As you have stated in your article, the old standards weren’t the best, but your idea of improving them seemed reasonable when comparing it to the cost of doing it over the next seven years. I think that the Common Core Standards could have been slowly worked into the curriculum in order for parents and teachers to get used to them since it seems the significant changes are what is causing people to oppose them, but maybe that option wasn’t available. I am planning to pursue a career in education at present, so it will be interesting to see how these standards will be improved or possibly discontinued in the future.

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