Getting to Know Common Core

ccIt’s easy to be confused by a lot of things, and Common Core is one of them. Some may think that Common Core aims to make every educator teach the same way, and every learner learn exactly the same way, but that’s not the case. Common Core is supposed to help us deliver a standard of student learning expectations from kindergarten to graduation to better ensure proper career and higher education success. Let’s find out more.

Forty-four states, at this point, have jumped on the Common Core bandwagon since 2010, and many have been preparing for the move in some fashion, long before adopting it. It may help to share a few very simple examples of Common Core Goals for better understanding. The Common Core does not say that students should read the same book at a certain age or level, but what it does say is that students should be able to recognize and determine the genre—know whether it’s a poem or a drama from text details. For mathematics, the Common Core doesn’t demand a district follow a certain curriculum, but it does require a certain level of concept mastery at each grade level.

Beyond understanding new curriculum goals and placement with Common Core, educators should understand that good teaching, and asking students for more than a memorized solution to a problem is Common Core, too. As a matter of fact, when teachers share their favorite lessons for students, those learning experiences are almost always to Common Core Standards anyway. And never before has interdisciplinary learning had such strong support. It is not uncommon to hear students talking about a mathematics problem during a writing lesson. After all, in life, more than one discipline may come into play to solve problems—so practicing that in classrooms makes sense. If done properly, Common Core can put more learning control into the hands of students. Success may be measured in how students respond, too. For instance, students in math or science classes referring to themselves as mathematicians or scientists would certainly be more than a common leap from teaching to the test.

Technology is also a big part of Common Core. There most likely isn’t a Common Core Goal that doesn’t have a technology component. Having students use the Internet and digital tools to search for answers and back up those answers is Common Core, too. That, for many districts, is a double-edged sword. While it is wonderful that students are finally being asked to use 21st century tools, those tools carry a hefty price tag, and also require plenty of educator professional development. Common Core may be tied to some very tight budgets, but technology is essential for success. And that needs to be supported at the local, state, and national levels.

With more narrative reading in each grade, and in many subject areas, some literature educators have been concerned that reading good literature may not get its proper attention… with all that non-fiction reading. There may be other disciplines with similar concerns, too. The thing to remember is that this education pendulum cannot afford the wild swings of past initiatives. Common Core seems more of a healthy and positive education plan. Although, hot on the heels of ten years of failed No Child Left Behind, everyone is cautious. While there may be some things that need to be modified, or worked out, Common Core is not a formula approach to teaching, and it’s quite a distance from the teach to the test NCLB decade. Common Core will be challenging at first, because any change is, but it offers so much more flexibility for educators to get back to the good experiential teaching they and their students enjoy, and parents like to hear about at day’s end.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
One Comment
  • paul
    16 October 2013 at 2:38 pm -

    Some good points in this one Ken. I agree that Common Core is not in itself a bad thing. As you say, any good lesson that excites kids undoubtedly is laden with common core outcomes. The issue i guess is when teachers teach the common core with little imagination, and then confound the issue with unimaginative assessment. But that’s just bad teaching – core or no core.

    An analysis of worldwide national syllabi will uncover remarkably similar outcomes, or core learning areas. The reason is not just because society values these sets of skills, but more that they provide students with skills that will allow them to become truly engaged in the world they live in. Let me take English syllabi from around the world. While the outcomes may be over-prescribed, they define a course to shape a really interesting thinker and creator. There is enormous scope to be imaginative as a teacher within these outcomes. I like this article because it makes me think that sometimes controversy can mask deeper issues. Telling teachers to teach common core is not the problem, it’s when teachers do it badly that hurts.