Parents with school aged children have been hearing news of the Common Core curriculum in the classroom, but what exactly is Common Core? According to the Common Core State Standard Initiative, the specific definition of Common Core standards is as followed:
The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. Forty-two states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the Common Core.
Why the push?
The main reason for this push is because the United States is failing in education when compared to other countries. This is especially true when it comes to English and Math standards. There is a push for children to begin Common Core curriculum as soon as they begin school, that way as they continue into middle school and high school, they will be familiar with expectations in math and language arts. It is the hope that high school graduates will be able to move on with post- secondary education and become equal, on a global level, when it comes to job placement.
Many are against Common Core standards
Parents and teachers alike are responding negatively to the new Common Core standards. Recent college graduates who have their degree in Education, as well as older teachers who have been in the field for 20 plus years, have to educate themselves when they develop classroom curriculum. Most school districts have a curriculum department that work to really understand the goals of Common Core, as well as the way math and language arts should be taught at each grade level. It is going to take several years for teachers to fully understand the standards for classroom teaching, and school administration will continue to explain these standards over time.
Parents are also confused by the new standards set in their state. There are several ways that you can come up with a correct answer in math, but a child’s homework must now show the correct Common Core way of doing things, otherwise the child risks losing points. Parents are just not used to this and remember the old ways, they used, to solve math problems. It really makes it hard for parents to help their children with homework problems. If the parents can’t help, and schools do not offer free tutoring, then how can a child learn the proper techniques? It is really a tricky situation that a lot just do not understand. As long as Common Core standards are around, parents should become familiar with the changing curriculum.
Key Shifts in Mathematics
There are a few key changes taking place in the subject of mathematics. The first is that teachers should focus on fewer topics, and deepen the way the child understands these topics. In doing this students should gain a solid understanding of concepts which will allow them the ability to apply math to problems inside and outside the classroom.
A second shift comes in the area of coherence, in which students should be able to link topics and thought processes across different grades. All mathematical concepts can be interconnected, and students should really focus on building skills as they move up grade levels in school.
The third shift is in the area of rigor which will allow students a deep understanding of mathematical concepts through conceptual understanding, procedural skills, and fluency & application, all with equal understanding.
Key Shifts in English Language Arts
Along with math, common core has made curriculum changes to English language arts. The first shift includes regular practice with complex texts and their academic language. In making this change, children are no longer focusing on reading and writing skills, but rather literacy standards set for placement tests when it comes to college. Many schools already implement a reading program for children. The child reads a book and is given a score based on how many words they read in a given time, as well as how many words they read correctly. Now, even children with below average reading levels are expected to read age appropriate text, even if they do not understand it.
The next shift in language arts is that reading, writing, and speaking should be grounded in evidence from the text, both literary and informational. The student should be able to explain how they determined the correct answer based on the evidence from the passage. They cannot say “because it says so in paragraph 5.” Instead they have to provide the exact wording that allowed them to come up with the answer.
Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction is the third shift set forth by Common Core. Classrooms must be equipped with at least 50/50 fiction and non-fiction pieces for independent reading. Some classrooms even report more non-fiction pieces available to students. In doing this, even as young as kindergarten, children can become immersed with real subjects in the world. These subjects are ones that children will go on to study in college, and help prepare them when it comes to setting up their career.
The good and the bad
Change is very difficult and so it is understandable why so many people might be against changes to curriculum and following Common Core standards. Because this is the norm across the nation students, parents, and teachers should embrace these standards. Challenge yourself and your child to learn new ways of completing school work. In reality, all Common Core is trying to do is better the future for our children, by providing them with a well-rounded education. Who wouldn’t want that for their child?