Your problem with the Common Core isn’t really the Common Core

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!


9 thoughts on “Your problem with the Common Core isn’t really the Common Core

  1. Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr)

    I am thankful for this blog post.

    As a teacher who usually “goes with the flow,” I have let others complain about the Common Core Standards while our district has been studying them carefully and finding out ways to implement them in the ELA classroom. (I know nothing about math – that seems to be another ball of wax.) I cannot control the testing, so I don’t focus on that aspect. All I can control is my attitude and how I react to the fact that the new standards are here. That being said, I am in total agreement with this quote: “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.”

    I believe this is where many teachers struggle. Districts need to give teachers the time to delve into the standards and then look at their plans. I’d bet many of their plans just need to be tweaked in order to address the standards. We have been working closely with the texts we already use, and plans we already have in place. We either throw out our old plans and create new, easy-to-implement plans where the students take ownership of their learning, or at the very least we are more aware of how we have been teaching…and what really needs to change in order for our students to reach higher. I hope districts give teachers more time (like I’ve been fortunate to have) to really look at the standards and their own texts and plans. That might make teachers feel more comfortable with the CCSS and actually focus on the students, not the worries or concerns.

    1. jsagel Post author

      Thanks so much Joy. I really appreciate your positive voice. I think for teachers who have been pushing aggressively forward with what is best for students, the CC won’t represent as big of a change. Many teachers are just struggling with basic the book isn’t the curriculum anymore concerns. I’m glad to hear things are going well with implementation in your class and school. If teachers are treated with respect and given a voice, it is amazing what they accomplish working together!

  2. unfoldingpaper

    Thank you for this. Sometimes I feel like I am the only person who DOESN’T hate CC. Or like I am dumb or a bad educator because I don’t think it’s bad. There are two gaps in the ELA 9-12 standards that annoy me, but overall they’re a big improvement on the old IL Frameworks.

    1. jsagel Post author

      Thanks for your kind words! I think sometimes we can make the perfect the enemy of the better and not see the progress being made. I think many hs english people freaked out because they thought the CC focus on informational text meant no more great works of literature, but the actual intent is more deep reading across all the contents, something that is desperately needed.

  3. Pingback: My two cents on the Common Core | Infinite Learning

  4. Pingback: My two cents on the Common Core | Infinite Learning

  5. Terry F Erickson

    Thank you for your post. I believe the greatest strength of the CCSS is the release of responsibility back to the teachers for student learning. Since NCLB came about we, abdicated this responsibility to curriculum publishers, “experts”, and national testing companies. The reading curriculum I am currently using is actually scripted. We need to refocus ourselves on learning instead of teaching and the CCSS gives this responsibility back to classroom teachers. Thank you.

    1. jsagel Post author

      I agree. One of the biggest challenges is no longer having scripted curriculum to lean on for teachers. Some are very excited by that possibility and others are scared. Really appreciate your kind words!


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