You’ve no doubt heard the conspiracy theories surrounding Common Core, most of which stem from one central idea: that the new standards are just a way for the federal government to take over the education of our kids, and by doing so, promote its own liberal agenda.
After all, liberals are known for advocating more governmental involvement and regulation, particularly at the federal level, right? And they obviously have a liberal agenda, because, well, they’re liberals, and we all have an agenda.
The problem is, you only have to dig an inch deep to see the many holes in this theory.
In fact, if you understand two very important facts, you will quickly see that the Obama-is-taking-over-our-schools-and-turning-our-kids-into-socialists theory has no legs to stand on.
The two most important things to understand about CCSS:
#1- Common Core State Standards are a set of standards, not curriculum. Standards are simply goals, or expectations, for students to meet. In other words, standards are the “what” (identify imagery and understand its effect on a literary piece) and curriculum is the “how” (read “Oranges” by Gary Soto and underline every example of imagery within the poem). Districts, schools, and teachers will continue to use their own discretion as far as how to teach the expectations.
#2- Common Core State Standards are not a federal initiative. States created and voluntarily adopted the standards, and states can withdraw from the standards at any time. There were no federal incentives to adopt CCSS and there are no penalties from walking away.
So, how did Common Core come about?
Historically, states have created and adopted their own education standards, and the rigor of these standards vary greatly. Because standards in every state are different, student learning is also inconsistent. In fact, a student considered a “proficient” reader in Alabama might be “below grade level” in Georgia.
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), along with the National Governors Association (NGA), decided that it would be incredibly helpful if states had a set of common standards, so that every state could ensure its children were learning just as much as the children of the state next door.
And so the idea was born.
Led by national experts, (including David Coleman of College Board) teachers, curriculum specialists, and state education officials spent years wading through the standards of countries around the world, as well every state in the U.S., in order to pare down the essential goals for our students. As a result, these new standards are not simply the lowest common denominator, as one might expect. Rather, CCSS are internationally benchmarked, but incorporate the feedback and the insights of states across our nation.
The CCSS are often described as being “fewer, higher, and clearer” than our current standards because teachers will actually spend more time teaching less. Students will focus on the basics early on, like fractions, so that they have a strong foundation for more difficult courses, like Algebra.
Skeptical? Or just curious? Good. Do your own homework, then come back and give me your thoughts!