In an earlier post, I outlined the reasons why I am a supporter of the Common Core standards. I know smart, passionate people who fall on both sides of this debate. I have continued to talk with other educators, and have followed with interest news and blog posts on the subject. Regardless of which side of the debate you are currently on, it comes down to if you believe the implementation of the standards will be good for students or not. No matter what initiative we find ourselves immersed in at the present moment, our thinking should always come back to our students. They are the reason we are educators. I still believe the basic premise (fewer, higher, clearer) of the CC standards (ELA and Math) will benefit students. Others do not. I could still be convinced otherwise in the future, but I still count myself as one of the supporters of the CC standards.
What I find very interesting in the arguments against the Common Core is that they are rarely about the actual standards. The one argument I have heard that pertains directly to the standards is that higher level skills are pushed into lower and lower grades going against what we know about child development. That is an argument worth considering, although I believe our students would be capable of so much more if we intensely focused on our highest priorities and trimmed a lot of the less meaningful things out of our curriculum. The other two arguments I’ve heard that are more indirectly tied to the Common Core are problems with standardized testing and the deprofessionalization of teaching.
Many fear that the Common Core standards are just another tool in the current overkill of standardized testing and accountability and that the standards seek to deprofessionalize teachers providing robots in every classroom with common standards and common pacing guides. Although I don’t know educators who have a problem with being held responsible for student growth in their classrooms, the simple truth is that current standardized tests as well as the future ones we will be mandated to give aren’t a good measure of a student or a school. These tests can provide data that will give one piece of the puzzle to consider, but should not be the ultimate measuring stick for success as they are a gross oversimplification of the complexity that is a human being and their learning. There is no one test that can judge the effectiveness of a school or teacher. Additionally, others complain that the new standards trample on the professional judgment of teachers and limit teachers’ freedom to do what they know is best in their classrooms. Teachers must have a voice in how the new standards are implemented and achieved in their classrooms and have freedom to teach to their strengths and be given the support that they need. If the Common Core standards are just another way to push forward this agenda of testing, accountability, and lack of respect for teachers, educators everywhere are right to oppose them.
Despite all these challenges, I believe the new standards have a chance to benefit students all over the nation. However, these standards must be placed in the hands of the communities and educators who know their students best and they must decide how they will best be implemented at the local level. Students and teachers, guided by the new standards, will tackle the greatest priorities at each grade level, emphasize problem solving and higher order thinking, and make sure that each student has a bright future ahead of them as they leave high school. Although I am far from a Common Core expert, in my experience, the new standards are a great improvement over the previous standards (Illinois State Standards) and hold a lot of promise for students into the future. I am also excited for the unprecedented opportunity for sharing and networking as so much of our nation comes together under the adoption of the Common Core. What do you think? Are you part of the push back against the CC standards? Is your problem with the standards or bad implementation? As always, would love to hear from you!