Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 13, 2014

Forum: The hype surrounding the Common Core

The hype surrounding the Common Core, an effort to establish a single set of educational standards for grades K-12 in mathematics and English language arts, escapes me. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia voluntarily adopted the standards, which are designed to ensure that all students have the academic knowledge and skills they need to be successful after graduation.

For the past several years, K-12 education has been hammered by the public. Critics have suggested that schools lack transparency and accountability, which has led several states to legislate comprehensive and sometimes complex standards for school accountability, transparency and educator effectiveness.

Years before the Common Core, the same critics voiced concern regarding the ability for America’s youth to compete with their peers in other countries whose student achievement statistics exceed those in the United States.

It seems counterintuitive that a concerted voluntary effort to align expectations - using standards that are internationally benchmarked against standards from some of the highest-performing countries, aligned with the ACT (the assessment all colleges and universities use to determine college readiness) and based on research, assessment data and input from educators, business, higher education and the general public — would receive so much opposition.

Several myths surround the Common Core. First, it is not “curriculum.” The Common Core represents a set of “standards,” which refers only to the reading, speaking, listening and mathematics skills students should attain by graduation. Decisions regarding what is taught are, and will continue to be, made at the local level. Another myth is that the Common Core is not rigorous enough. Although the Common Core is more rigorous than standards currently in place in nearly 40 states, it is not intended to be the “ceiling,” but a baseline set of skills for all students.

The movement toward the Common Core has already increased educator collaboration across regions and states in the development of common assessments and model curricular and instructional materials in K-12 and higher education. New educators will now be prepared based on a common set of standards and resources currently being diverted to train/retrain educators can be used in other ways, such as customizing the standards based on their local needs and priorities.

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