Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 09:26

I chose this topic for several reasons, but most importantly to try and get a better handle on Common Core as a whole. What does it mean? How does it affect schools? Do teachers lose control? Are their standards for all courses?

My love for Google is well documented, so my first thought was to simply google “Common Core”. That was sure fun, talk about information overload. My first question (what is Common Core?) was answered pretty quickly: The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or enter the workforce. http://www.corestandards.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions

This brought me to another question…who developed the Common Core State Standards to begin with? {Goes back to Google} …coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. The NGA Center and CCSSO received initial feedback on the draft standards from national organizations representing, but not limited to, teachers, postsecondary educators (including community colleges), civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Following the initial round of feedback, the draft standards were opened for public comment, receiving nearly 10,000 responses.

Yet another question popped into my head – does this mean the standards are the same, across the board, for ALL students? From ELL’s to those with disabilities to TAG students…and if so is that a fair way to teach? Can all students learn to the best of their ability if we are teaching the same thing, the same way to every student – regardless of their abilities? My answer was fuzzy at best: The Common Core State Standards give states the opportunity to share experiences and best practices, which can lead to an improved ability to serve young people with disabilities and English language learners. Additionally, the standards include information on application of the standards for these groups of students. I can only assume this means there are a varied set of standards for traditional ‘under-performers’ but what about traditional ‘over-performers’?

Back to my original set of questions – are Common Core standards developed for every course? The answer – NO and here’s why: 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. What about science? What about computer science? What about health? These three areas hold the majority of the top 7 in demand careers RIGHT NOW. Shouldn’t we be spending time teaching these skills while incorporating math and language arts? If someone can do algebra and write a thesis but can’t understand basic computer systems, have we really done our best to teach them what they’ll need to know in the working world?

But, thankfully, I read further and find this - Science: In a process managed by Achieve, with the help of the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, states are developing the Next Generation Science Standards. More information about this effort can be found here.

My quest for information on Common Core ended with information about how teachers are affected. According to CoreStandards.org The Common CSS impacts teachers by:

  • Providing goals and benchmarks to ensure students are achieving certain skills and knowledge by the end of each year;
  • Helping colleges and professional development programs better prepare teachers;
  • Providing the opportunity for teachers to be involved in the development of assessments linked to these top-quality standards;
  • Allowing states to develop and provide better assessments that more accurately measure whether or not students have learned what was taught; and
  • Guiding educators toward curricula and teaching strategies that will give students a deep understanding of the subject and the skills they need to apply their knowledge.

One question I didn’t get to the bottom of – How does Common Core effect schools? So tell me, how does Common Core affect you/your classroom/your school. Email me at summer.hagy@stemfuse.com and I’ll write a follow up. I won’t use your name or school, just the state you are from and the subject you teach.

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Summer