Follow by Email

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Debate sparks Common Core discussion

Last night's debate between senatorial candidates generated a spirited discussion about the Common Core on on my Facebook page. It clearly illustrates the amount of confusion and misinformation that's out there. With names removed, here's what was said:

MY ORIGINAL POST: Just one more thing..the Common Core is not a federal curriculum. And it's needed 

FRIEND ONE: Why is the common core needed or necessary?  

FRIEND TWO: Someone is going to have to convince me that the Common Core is more effective than math techniques used in the past. From what I've experienced, it requires kids to use all of these different approaches and to show their work when, really, just as we did, they know how to get the answer through memorization or simple reasoning. I LOATHE the common core.  

FRIEND THREE: My understanding from my teacher friends is that CC is a set of standards. It is not a curriculum or a teaching technique. It does promote critical thinking, problem solving and reasoning skills. It is up to the individual school districts to use a curriculum that help students meet CC Standards. Some companies market their curriculum as being "aligned with CC standards" and although this increases book sales, it may or may not be the case. Herein lies some of the confusion and some of the crazy things we've all seen in the media and on the internet.

ME: (Friend Three) is exactly right. It's a set of standards that was adopted while I was at the Department of Ed, so I got the good fortune of watching the process up close. It came from the realization among state level folks -- in the association of state education directors or commissioners and in the association of governors -- that students in the US were not keeping up with students in other countries and students in some states were not being taught to the same level of standards as students in other states. 

We were lucky in Arkansas because we already had a high set of standards thanks to some strong educational leaders at the state department. That made it easy for us to sign on to the Common Core effort. All we had to do was readjust where some of our key concepts were taught. For example, I remember that some of the big concern involved introducing algebraic concepts at lower grade levels than we had previously.  

The other big focus, as (Friend Three) said, was to to teach at a deeper level of understanding to make sure students really understand the most basic concepts. In Arkansas, the one criticism I often heard from teachers with our standards (or curriculum frameworks) was that they were so broad that they were tough to cover in a year's time. The Common Core should help with that issue. 

School personnel determine how the Common Core is to be taught in their classes, so it really gives teachers more freedom. 

Common Core is suffering a lot of the same plight as Obamacare in that it gives government-fearing folks a stick to use -- except they haven't done their homework. This did not stem from Obama but from the states themselves.

I doubt that will be the end of the discussion...feel free to join in with your comments here!