A hot topic subject in today’s education system in Idaho is Common Core. There are many people who will gladly give you their opinion on Common Core, and the majority of the opinions are negative in nature. I have personally heard that Common Core is to blame for the new way math is being taught. Common Core is to blame for more homework. Common Core is to blame for new educational policies. The truth is, Common Core isn’t what the majority of people think it is.
Common Core started as, “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.” The “Common” in Common Core was to unify the standards so that everyone was on the same page at the same time. That way, if a child in 5th grade from Oregon came to Idaho, they would be taught the same standards that were being taught in Oregon. At its core, this is what Common Core really is.
So where did all the frustration, confusion, and irritation come from? That came from curriculum developers, testing companies, and big business. You see, when the idea of creating a new education initiative was announced, curriculum developers and testing companies saw it as a way to make money. The way they decided to make money was to push the idea that the way things were being taught were not meeting standards. Something had to change. There must be a new way to teach content to meet standards. So curriculum developers decided to encourage new ways of teaching content through their newly created curriculum. They then showed that it boosted scores, created new ways of learning for students, and encouraged deeper learning. To be honest, when a school district hears that the curriculum boosts scores, it is an easy buy in. The truth is, the standards are still the same, but curriculum has now determined how the standards are being taught.
As a teacher who understands the Common Core initiative, I like the idea of a unified standards system throughout the states that encourages college and career readiness skills. What I don’t agree with is curriculum developers and testing companies making money off of a made up problem. I will admit, there are better ways of teaching certain contents than rote memorization and drill and kill. Is there a place for it? Sure, but it is not the only way of teaching something.
I am not a fan of curriculum; never have been, never will be. I teach to the standards; which can all be found on Idaho’s Department of Education website (See below). Students are tested every year over the standards, not curriculum. Students are required to show growth on the standards, not curriculum. Does curriculum have a place? Sure, as a resource to teaching the standards. Curriculum fails many times at teaching standards. This is why it is pertinent that teachers constantly refer to the standards and not rely on curriculum.
To summarise, Common Core is not what most people think it is. It is not what started the problem with “new ways of teaching math.” Common Core is nothing more than common grade level standards taught throughout the states. The problem started when curriculum developers thought of a way to make more money by providing the idea that the current way of doing things wasn’t working, and it needed to change to meet the standards. In all, it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that students are being taught the standards; which can be taught through a multitude of strategies and methods. If a child is struggling in content, an invested teacher will use a myriad of methods to help the student understand the content, or should I say, the standard.
Idaho State Standards:
Common Core Initiative: