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The Pros & Cons of Common Core State Standards

The Pros and Cons of the Common Core State StandardsIf you pay any amount of attention to education and education policy, or read national news websites or print editions, you have heard the words "Common Core State Standards," or CCSS.

The CCSS are designed to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn and sets academic benchmarks for all students, regardless of where in the country they live.  The Common Core State Standards define just what students at each grade level need to learn in reading, writing and math so that they stay on track for college and careers.

Anyone who cares about student achievement would say that these are admirable goals.

However, CCSS has garnered criticism across the country, from teachers, activists and parents. The Republican National Committee recently denounced CCSS as a “nationwide straightjacket on academic freedom”.

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TeachHUB wanted to hear from teachers, the practitioners who have to live and breathe these new standards, so we asked two of our contributors to share their thoughts on the Common Core State Standards. One is excited, and describes the initiative as ‘revolutionary’. The other admits that there is a steep learning curve for teachers, but is hopeful that the new standards will ultimately help teachers engage students in a new and exciting way.

Read on for their thoughts and, when you’re done, share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you.

Setting a High Bar of Achievement

By Jordan Catapano

Teachers often shudder at the thought of any national set of educational standards being implemented, and the adoption of the Common Core has become a hotly debated issue. We must begin our consideration of these standards by looking at the potential positives of this revolutionary step in education. An unprecedented step like this, after all, can lead to unprecedented progress.

The first major advantage of adopting the Common Core is that states will have a truly “common” way of comparing themselves. Previously, each state had its own unique set of standards and testing, which meant that it was anyone’s guess how states ranked against one another. Now there is a united way of measuring each state’s academic performance.

The idea of states sharing this core of standards also makes for easier inter-state transitions and collaboration. Now, students in one state will be learning the same core principles as students in another; plus, if a student moves to a new state, he won’t be confronted with a new set of skills to master. And in today’s increasingly connected teacher network, having a common set of standards to collaborate off of means teachers can speak the same language coast to coast.

In addition to benefitting students, the Common Core means that less money needs to be spent by states on testing development and implementation. This may not directly benefit students, but it’s a victory when a wise educational move doubles as an economic plus for states.

And one of the strongest reasons in favor of the Common Core – albeit one of the most debatable – is that these standards set a high bar of achievement. It will compel schools to develop cross-curricular, vertically designed initiatives that get their students reach measurable standards year after year.

Many opposing teachers argue that adopting Common Core standards means adjusting already-proven methods of teaching, increases standardized testing, pressures younger students, and targets merely broad categorical skills. But these complaints are not new – they are voiced when any modification to the status quo comes along. Adopting the Common Core means adopting an opportunity to achieve a national standard of education we never have before. And what makes it work, anyhow, is not the standards themselves, but the teachers’ commitment to them.

A Learning Curve

By Myree Conway

When the Common Core State Standards were first introduced, I am sure many teachers rolled their eyes, released an exaggerated, heavy sigh, and thought, “Oh boy, what do I have to do now?” I know I did.

Changes in education occur so often, especially right after you have learned and adjusted to the last sets of changes – they can become difficult to manage. When Common Core became a reality, I had questions, specifically: What does this mean for teachers and/or teaching methods? Will the new standards allow for teacher/student creativity and engagement?

The answers depend on the teaching methods you use. If you are a  “teach straight from the text, students take notes while you lecture” or “read and then answer questions from text” teacher, then you are going to need to implement a new style of teaching. Questions posed to students will now require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

I have not yet received professional development on the new Common Core State Standards - it is fairly new in my school. My working knowledge is somewhat limited to what I have read and been told. I can only say that I am still learning ways to implement most of the teaching suggested teaching methods suggested. Folding the new methods into my teaching style have been challenging and require more prep time but, ultimately, I have found them to be successful.

If you are a teacher who poses challenging questions, engages students in classroom discussions, and encourages problem solving and critical thinking, chances are you are ready for this new approach.

Common Core State Standards emphasize all of the aforementioned teaching strategies and assist in ensuring an interactive and engaged classroom. Creating an environment in which discussions are on-going and where all students are actively participating in discussions will challenge students and promote higher-level thinking, among other skills.

Bottom line: the biggest change for teachers adapting to the Common Core State Standards is learning that it is not so much about the facts of the standards as it is the application. The new requirements are a far cry from how teaching and learning once took place and, no doubt, will require a great deal of effort from both teachers and students as we adapt to these new requirements.

We want to hear from you: what are your thoughts on the Common Core State Standards? Has your district provided training on these new standards? How have you had to adjust your teaching methods to accomodate Common Core State Standards? Leave your replies in the comment section, below.

This article originally appeared in a recent issue of TeachHUB magazine, our award-winning, downloadable publication. For more informative articles about issues affecting education, download the latest issue today!

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