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Understanding Common Core: A Breakdown of the Pros and Cons

A big change is underway in the world of American education.

Credit unknown. If you know the source of this image, please email Catherine.Crawford@patch.com
Credit unknown. If you know the source of this image, please email Catherine.Crawford@patch.com

Once a day, Patch tackles national news that affects your community. If you have suggestions for tomorrow’s story, email catherine.crawford@patch.com

Forty-five states have voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an educational initiative “designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.” Common Core is meant to streamline state curricula through a set of universal specifications so that kids all over the country will be learning the same things. Some states have already introduced the new standards, and it’s scheduled to be fully implemented by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

But the mass-standardization has led to a huge backlash, including talk of a protest on November 18. Angry parents in states across the country have organized a walkout around that date.

It’s not surprising that a change this significant would rouse very strong opinions, yet just over two months ago, almost two in three Americans had never heard of Common Core. You can bet that as we draw closer to full implementation, we will all hear plenty. To prepare you for the onslaught, here is a breakdown of the most frequently voiced pros and cons of the new educational standards:

Pros:

1. More rigor: According to Kate Gerson with Regents Research Fund, a group that advises the New York education department, “Historically, in American education, we have done every concept in the world a mile wide and an inch deep.” The Common Core focuses on fewer concepts, but with more concentration. The hope is that this will foster deeper understanding.

2. International benchmarking: International benchmarking was used in the development of the standards for mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy in an attempt to raise the international ranking of American education. The goal is that American students from all over the country will compare positively with students in other top performing countries.

3. National continuity: For children who move around a lot, when schools teach roughly the same thing, students will likely have better luck staying on track with their studies. Additionally, the costs of test development in each state could decrease with all participating states using similar materials, and teachers across the country can more easily join forces and share ideas.

Cons:

1. Too Much federal control: For many who believe that the federal government already has too much power, the Common Core Standards seems like just another instance of central government usurping control from local school government.

2. A blow to the arts: While conservatives may fear a governmental takeover, many liberals fear that the change will cause even more testing that, worse yet, will focus mostly on math and science at the expense of art and creative writing. Faced with pressure to meet the standards, teachers will increasingly teach to the test, critics say.

3. Wasted resources: Both sides of the debate argue that money is a factor. Detractors of Common Core point out that, due to the revamp, many textbooks now being used will need to be replaced. Additionally, there are frequent reports of veteran teachers opting out and retiring early.

Do you think the Common Core Standards will be a good or bad thing for education in America? Tell us about it in the comments or in a blog post.

Mary Martin November 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM
Ms. Crawford, I want to thank you for opening dialog about Common Core. I feel as though this is an area that people of differing political opinions can certainly reach across the aisle and work together because we have the same desired result: the best education for our children. I completely agree that Common Core will be a devastating blow to the arts. Many arts programs are already struggling to stay afloat in Pennsylvania due to lack of funding, and with the added pressure of meeting a standardized testing schedule, the prioritization will leave it even further behind. This is detrimental to the children because it is well documented that students are more successful with the arts incorporated into leaning. Stimulating right brain development, the arts increase cognitive learning, problem solving, social skills, communication, motor skill development, and creativity. For many students, the arts are the glue that hold facts together. The cost will indeed be a factor for the implementation of Common Core. It is a fundamental transition in the school system that all materials will line up with. New software, text books, report cards systems, websites, testing, staff for data maintenance, an well as other data requirements that are required for compliance with RTTT/ Common Core Standards. With school systems already under so much pressure for funding, the weight of Common Core is overly oppressive and we don’t even know what the total bill will be for some time. I agree that many parents, as myself, find the federal intrusion in the school system a breach of trust. For our family, we have chosen public school for our children. As parents, we have the best understanding of the needs for our child, and that working with her teacher and school, she can have a fine education. I feel that we are the best people to monitor and supplement her education as we see the need for it, and it is best handled with a hands on approach by people that know and care about her. I don’t feel as though a federal office of bureaucrats (regardless of the diploma on the wall) can or should legislate my daughters education from Washington. You are certainly correct that many of our finest and most experienced teachers are leaving the classroom rather than subject themselves to further federal intrusion of their professions. The profession they went to college for and the philosophy of teaching in the past is barely recognizable now that standardized education has replaced the creative learning process they had a passion for. I think these selfless educators are seriously in need of our help. While increased rigor and “international benchmarking” is certainly the high points of what Common Core has been sold on, the “rigor” is untested in its methods and sadly “internationally benchmarked” has been downgraded to “internationally viewed” because our math is behind by two years of the benchmarking. It was however, created with international benchmarking goals…. But we seemed to miss the mark. Again, I want to thank you for opening the topic for conversation. I know that there is common ground for the good of all children that we can, and parents and citizens, work together to strengthen what we are doing right, without compromising progress and improvement within the schools.

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