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In defense of Common Core State Standards

Olivia Benson, Head Copy Editor

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If you were to ask me two and a half years ago what frustrated me — an education major about to enter college —  most about our educational system, I very likely would have said that it was the Common Core. At the time, I would occasionally see numerous posts from friends on Facebook about how ridiculous Common Core math was and how frustrated they were about helping their children with it. Or I would come across conservative articles decrying the Common Core, suggesting that it was keeping schools from teaching what they wanted to teach. Even now, many of my friends unfamiliar with education are shocked when I say that, as a preservice teacher, the Common Core State Standards are the best, most effective tool and guide for me as I prepare to enter the field of education.

For those unfamiliar with the Common Core, it is, according to its website, “a clear set of goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed.” For almost every grade level and subject, the Common Core provides a series of benchmarks for content knowledge and skills, a guidebook for what a given child should know in a specific grade anywhere in the U.S. In theory, the Common Core effectively allows a student to move to any state in the U.S. and have similar content knowledge and skills as the students there, meaning that teachers do not (hypothetically) have to play catch-up with a new student. The Common Core State Standards benefit both students and teachers and ultimately strive to maintain a high standard for the quality of education in the U.S.

Why then has the Common Core been stigmatized in the U.S.? Why did current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos herself call it a “federalized boondoggle” on her personal website? Why are so many Americans deeply misinformed about the standards and their intentions? The answers to these questions are more complicated and involved than can possibly be explained in one opinion article. But I do feel that the misrepresentation of the Common Core speaks to a larger problem in the U.S. today. Those who shout the loudest — which in this case are misinformed citizens — are often given more recognition, making the discourse seem one-sided. Platforms like these do not lead to uninformed citizens changing their opinions or gaining deeper understanding of the issue, often it leads to them feeling justified in their opinion that is based on non-facts.

It’s a culture like this that allows the Common Core to become undervalued and stereotyped. Why shouldn’t we have standards for the quality of the education of U.S. students? Subjects like reading, history, math, and science do not and can not change depending on geographic location in the country. Meaning that national standards are relevant no matter where a student lives, negating the need for standards of unknown quality developed by local or state governments. Further, the Common Core is not a curriculum. It has never pretended to be. It is a set of goals, a benchmark and an end point for students. Students will be asked to make and reach goals their whole life, their schooling can be an opportunity for them to develop the ability to achieve goals and standards. Yes, sometimes those standards might be inappropriate, and yes they are imperfect. But that does not mean that the Common Core is failing U.S. students. If anything, the population of teachers is failing students. But that’s a whole other argument.

In almost any career or vocation, workers are given an idea of their objective and how to get there, the work that needs to be accomplished. The Common Core provides this structure for teachers and students, creates a blueprint for the education of the average student. It is developmentally appropriate, and was written with input from teachers. Yes, it still can be stifling or controlling for some teachers. But that does not mean that we as a country forgo providing a quality education to our children, that we cease to hold our Department of Education to the high standards that we, the citizens need. I’m not asking you to become a Common Core advocate, or to go challenge ever disgruntled parent on Facebook. What you can do, however, is to not blindly buy into the rhetoric that the Common Core State Standards are stifling creativity and a burden to teachers. Acknowledge your own misconceptions, and don’t be afraid to educate yourself. The Common Core State Standards are accessible online for free at www.corestandards.org .

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “In defense of Common Core State Standards”

  1. Chi Onyewuenyi on April 8th, 2017 10:15 am

    I do appreciate this opinion piece on CCSS. Luckily, my district (and state in general) has worked very hard to gain teacher buy-in. What saddens me also is what this misconception around CCSS has done to the term “rigor”…

  2. Jane M. Gangi, PhD on April 9th, 2017 9:56 am
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