The Common Core. You either love it, hate it, or prefer to know nothing about it (ignorance is bliss). Or, maybe, you are like me, a person who has experienced nothing but flip-flopping emotions since this initiative was revealed in 2010. Either way, these nation-wide standards have stirred up quite the controversy amongst educators and parents.
This is the first blog of a three-blog series where I plan on addressing three questions about CCSS: Who is truly the bad guy: Common Core or state implementation of standards? What really needs to change: our standards or our mindsets? How will the Common Core impact our students at the college level?
Standards Vs. Implementation
The U.S. needs higher academic standards, I get it. We are falling behind in the international race of improving student learning and higher-thinking performance.
How do we fix this?
Obviously, we need to increase our expectations in the classrooms.
Sounds good. How?
Uhh, let’s create some new, more rigorous standards that will accelerate students in the areas of reading and math.
Done. Now what?
The next step was implementing these standards. Well, since each state began implementing the Common Core from extremely different levels, each state was given the right to implement CCSS in a way that worked best for them (as long as it was done by a certain date). The question is: did the states think before they started implementing?
As I was reading the Common Core standards for the first time, I thought to myself, Wow, these seem like very ambitious standards. And, to students in my home state of North Carolina, they were.
My fifth-graders were not going to magically acquire the knowledge and thinking-ability over an eight-week summer break to successfully be introduced to the new Common Core the following fall. Even so, there were so many concepts I would need to review with them, including the foundational skills of the fourth grade CCSS, for example, which they were never taught since we switched standards “overnight.”
Law makers and the department of public instruction knew that our teachers and students would need more than one year to adapt to these new standards. For goodness sake, they waived last year’s End of Grade Test as a way to forgive the transition from old to new standards. But is waiving a test score helping anybody? That does not sound like effective implementation to me.
Many states switched to the Common Core for all grade levels right off the bat (while thinking, We must keep Race to the Top funding!) But I would assume that processes as large as changing an entire curriculum for K-12 students usually work better at a gradual speed. Adopting the Common Core is not a negative thing. Flipping standards for each grade level overnight? Very negative.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
How could this nation-wide standards implementation have been considered positive? Simply put, this adoption would have been much more successful if slowly implemented over a longer period of time, and not pushed by the Secretary of Education to be completed in the snap of two fingers.
Let’s say Kindergarten and first grade adopted CCSS for the first school year, followed by second and third grades the following year, and then fourth/fifth, etc. Meanwhile, teachers of higher grades are receiving professional development in the area of teaching Common Core. In addition, the standards and the teaching of the standards by the lower grade levels are being closely monitored to analyze their appropriateness for each grade level and minor adjustments are made to fit the needs of students.
I know what the lawmakers are thinking: We don’t have time for this gradual nonsense…we need our test scores to be better than Korea’s NOW! But, at what cost? Flash forward to two years after the CCSS transfer has taken place (for most states). Are we any closer to competing with Singapore, Korea, Finland, or Japan?
Common, rigorous standards are not the enemy. A flash implementation of the standards is what is keeping our students from truly competing at the international level…well, that and a narrow mindset. But more on our mindsets later…