Saturday, August 23, 2014

What the heck is "Common Core"?

Highly recommended viewing:
Now that I am starting a new school year - I find several districts are instituting Common Core Curriculum Standards. Many people have heard that Common Core is coming to our national education system but are unclear about what it means. These standards insure that all American students will receive a known level of proficiency in the subjects they take.  Instead of standards being determined state-by-state, the CCS provide consistency, so that a child’s district will no longer determine his or her education. Children in Florida will be learning the same concepts and material at the same time as children in California, and changing school systems will no longer set students back or put them ahead; they will still be right on target. The CCS provide a framework that eliminates gaps in education and progresses like a staircase—students keep moving up to more and more complex texts and ideas, but in a smooth progression. 
The development of Common Core State Standards began with examination of what has been learned from the existing standards in various states.  The new standards will refine the learning goals, and coordinate them for the entire nation to help prepare all students .  The standards clearly demonstrate what students are expected to learn at each grade level, so that every parent and teacher can understand and support the learning.
The standards are based on the results of years of careful research acquired by observing successful classroom teachers.   The emphasis is not only based on learning critical facts and skills but to also develop higher-order thinking skills. 

It is critical to "learn how to learn", how to "process new information" because with information expanding as rapidly as it is - we need to prepare students for life-long-learning long after they are in our classrooms.   Planning of the goals also takes into account  successful teaching methods found in high performing countries, so that our students will be prepared to compete in the global world.
For grades K-8, grade-by-grade Common Core standards exist in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. For grades 9-12, the CCS standards are grouped into grade bands of 9-10 grade standards and 11-12 grade standards.
While the standards set grade-specific goals, they do not define how the standards should be taught or which materials should be used to support students. States and districts recognize that there will need to be a range of supports in place to ensure that all students, including those with special needs and English language learners, can master the standards. It is up to the states to define the full range of supports appropriate for these students.
No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety of abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom. Importantly, the standards provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students.

Opponents to common core express concern that Common Core really institutes more federal control of education – but as our population becomes ever more mobile – standards ensure that the coursework that a student has in one school will mesh with what is taught in another school. Decisions made by local school boards often involve untrained people making curriculum decisions based on incomplete information or training.

Some of the earlier standards were “lock step” with teachers required to be in complete uniformity.  The Common Core standards identify the learning goals but allow teachers to have more flexibility in adapting the learning activities to the needs of the students.

Common Core brings a breath of fresh air!  I urge you to learn more about it and support the standards in your local schools.


This summary draws heavily on these source