It's understandable that Common Core gets a lot of parents in an uproar. The viral articles featuring convoluted equations and indirect questions on a first-grader's homework assignment can be more than concerning for a parent. Despite some growing pains and some obvious flaws in the system, Common Core at its heart is worthwhile and a step in the right direction for our students.
I started teaching high school English and humanities in 2010, conveniently the same year that my state adopted Common Core. Even though I was raised by parents who are teachers, teaching within the Common Core framework is all I've ever known.
It wouldn't be prudent of me to talk about Common Core math standards since I literally have zero experience with them. My background is on the English side, and there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about how and what I teach.
For those who don't know, Common Core is a series of standards that all states, with the exception of only a few, follow as a guide when planning curriculum. It's best to think of standards as goals for the end of the year. In other words, it's what a child should be able to do by the time they leave the classroom for Summer break.
Each year builds on the work done previously, getting more complex as they mature and get older. Most of them seek to establish a relationship between critical thinking and analyzing evidence. While these standards are to be taught and practiced in the class, I've never been told how to teach them.
I've appreciated the standards as a guiding reminder to create authentic curriculum that will best serve my students later. On days when I struggled to find a new approach to a story, looking at the standards helped me create lesson plans and ensure that I was giving students a quality education. I still have complete autonomy on what books my children read and how they approach the texts.
However, while assistance in curriculum planning and lessons is a nice side effect, this is not the reason we have this content framework.
Common Core, at its heart, is the belief that all children across the country, regardless of income, race, or where they live, should have access to a quality education. A child who is raised in Arkansas should be able to pick up and move to Washington and successfully merge into their new school without feeling lost or behind.
Considering the disparity among schools nationwide, Common Core can help bridge that gap. These standards help to ensure rigor and give new teachers a way to receive support, through funding for training and a bevy of resource materials online.
My argument is not that Common Core is perfect — far from it. The way they test the standards has been cumbersome to say the least. One school that I worked in was required to administer the test on computers during a very tight window, despite the fact that there were only a handful of working computers available. If the school didn't administer the test, it ran the risk of jeopardizing funding. So, no, it's not perfect.
But it's a start. It's the beginning of realizing that access to education shouldn't be restricted by state lines. It's the beginning of trying to be closer to the educational programs of our other first-world neighbors.
It's important for everyone to understand why Common Core is so desperately needed. While it may not act as a panacea, it's a step in the right direction toward equitable education and global competitiveness.