We know that opinions and experiences with Common Core vary widely. In this series, our contributor is sharing his thoughts on Common Core. Please note that his opinions and thoughts do not necessarily reflect Cincinnati Moms Blog’s opinions as a whole. We welcome productive and respectful conversation from our readers on this subject in both the comments section below as well as on our Facebook page.
In the previous entry of these series, I tried to explain what the Common Core standards are. Everybody is talking about them, a lot of people are complaining, and a lot of people are getting it wrong. It is important to remember that The Common Core Standards are simply state adopted guidelines outlining what teachers should be teaching, and what students should be learning.
So I am sure some of you are wondering why we need these new Common Core standards, when every state already had their own?
While there is no end to the reasons that led state representatives and education professionals to develop the Common Core standards, I think there are three reasons that speak the loudest.
First, something needed to be done because the state of education in the United States is on the decline. We’ve all seen the charts and graphs that show where the United States stands when compared with the learning rate of other countries. What they show is that the United States is starting to fall behind.
Obviously, if we want to stay competitive as a country, we need to revamp and revitalize our education system. The old standards are not doing enough to get American kids prepared to be competitive on a global scale, which should help ensure the security of the American economy in the future. By introducing new standards that push students to do and achieve more, the goal is to raise our ranking and provide a better quality education when compared with the rest of the world.
Second, all states are not created equal. We assume that since education is public the quality of that education is fairly consistent. The truth can’t be further from the truth. Of the 50 states, Ohio is ranked right at the middle in terms of quality, but states like Massachusetts and Minnesota are blowing us out of the water. At the same time, schools in Mississippi and West Virginia are considered to be among the worst in the country. If interested, you can read more about that here.
When state governors and their consortium of education professionals sat down to develop the common core, the idea was close the gaps between states. If each state adopts the Common Core, there is a sense of consistency that comes with it. Also, if every state is using the same standards, resources and materials become more universal, which allows for the sharing of ideas that work, and the discarding of those that don’t. The hope is that the gap between states and the quality of their education will close a bit, though it will take awhile before we see results.
Finally, a third reason why the Common Core was created is because the former standards haven’t been keeping up with the times. Consider this, a majority of the Ohio State Standards focus on a student’s ability to identify and recognize concepts and ideas. A student who can memorize facts and identify key concepts can typically score really well on the previous state tests. As a child in elementary school in the 1980s and 1990s, these skills were essential. You needed to be able to remember a lot of things, and then recognize the concepts when they appeared. Memorization was a key component, because there was never any guarantee that you would have that information on hand, if you didn’t have it in your head.
Yet, with this being the information age and all, it’s an entirely different story. A kid no longer has to remember that the Norman Invasion of 1066 had a huge impact on take the English language away from its Germanic roots and more to what we know and speak today, because should the need for that information arise, you can do a Google search or find it on your phone. Now that we are living in the information age, there is no limits to the information at our finger tips. As a result, the ability to memorize becomes less important. Instead, what students these days need to learn is how to understand and make use of all of this information at our finger tips. So in reading, instead of just finding the answer to the question from the story, students need to be able to locate and use evidence to support their answers and ideas. Texts aren’t places we memorize information from, but a tool for supporting arguments and ideas. Students are being asked to go deeper into concepts and do more than just recognize. The ability to apply information to real world situations, and explain concepts to others is now the focus when before, being able to remember facts and details were sufficient.
It will take a few years before we know for certain if the Common Core Standards are able to do what we hoped they would be able to do. That being said, the thought that went into planning them is coming from the right place. While the new standards are bringing new challenges and complications to the lives of teachers, parents, and students, there is actual thought that has gone into the decision making process and led us to this point.