Mention “Common Core” to many parents and teachers and you’ll get reactions ranging from great enthusiasm to absolute disdain. While some agree that the concept is solid, It’s the execution that causes most of the conflict.
What is Common Core?
When you have schools throughout the United States, kids moving from one school to another can be lost and confused since there isn’t one set curriculum taught across the board. For example, third grade math in West Virginia might not be at the same level as third grade math in North Carolina. Common core was the method put forth to streamline the curriculum so that if a child moved from North Carolina to West Virginia or Ohio or even Iowa, there would be less confusion for the child.
From that perspective, common core seems like a great idea. If all children are learning the same thing at the same time, all children will be on the same page education-wise. School districts embraced the idea and set out to create the lesson plans that would be used to teach the children what they needed to know. And that, as they say, is when the wheels fell off the bus.
The Pros and Cons of Common Core
Pro: A new teaching method aimed to help more students
Common Core standards introduce different ways of teaching the core classes for each grade. It can be of great benefit to students who don't understand the more common ways of doing things and helps students hone their critical thinking skills.
Pro: Standardized teaching means standardized learning
With a specific learning agenda in mind, educators can concentrate on the best ways to convey the information to students. Teachers are free of determining what a student needs to learn and can then instead craft engaging and creative ways of teaching students. It also allows a teacher the time to analyze the learning styles of students so the classroom instruction and assignments can best meet the needs of the students.
Pro: It’s cheaper and its reach is broader
By embedding the standards into the day-to-day curriculum and applying the usual testing that happens regularly in schools, states can save money by eliminating standardized testing in the schools. Since the text of the test itself is being taught in the classroom, normal testing is sufficient to determine whether or not the curriculum is working. Also, by including the standards of common core into the daily curriculum, all schools – whether they’re inner city, rural or suburban – will be taught the same concepts at the same time.
Con: Who teaches common core to teachers?
In order to teach common core lessons, the person teaching them must first understand them. Some of the learning methods being produced for common core are, for the lack of a better description, out there. In order for students to get a firm grasp of the concepts, teachers must completely understand the concepts themselves before they can effectively convey the lessons to the students. This has been problematic, because too many teachers are entering the classroom expecting to teach a method that many do not completely understand. And when the teacher doesn’t “get it,” it should be no surprise to anyone when the students struggle with it.
Con: Not everyone “gets it.”
Even when the teacher does understand the concept being taught and can effectively teach his students, this doesn’t mean that all students will understand. One of the reasons Common Core was introduced in the first place was because students weren't testing well on standardized tests. It was supposed to help students learn in different ways, but instead of keeping some of the old ways that worked and adding the new ones, schools shoved the “new ways” down everyone’s collective throat.
Have there been students who have thrived with the new teaching methods? Of course. But there are also students who are now struggling that were fine with the old method. It has become an all or nothing proposition, which is really no better than what it replaced. Many would say it's worse.
Con: Parents are out of the loop
In the old days before Common Core, when a student was struggling with his homework, mom or dad would sit down at the table and help. Since in most cases at least one parent had been good in the subject, helping a child get over a hurdle wasn’t that big a deal. That all changed with Common Core. Now, teachers are struggling to teach, students are struggling to learn and parents are helpless because they’re as confused as the teachers and the students.
A common standard of teaching is a good idea. If Common Core had been implemented properly, it could have been the educational overhaul that’s been needed for years, but as with many a good idea, it fails in implementation. Education administrators need to take a step back and add several additional layers to the process. Teachers need to be better educated in the concepts and receive additional guidance on how to effectively teach them. Parents should be able to receive help and information so they can continue to help their children from home and students need to be more carefully studied to determine their learning styles so teachers can more effectively plan lessons that can be learned by all.