Teacher’s perspective on Common Core

Published 7:00 am Friday, January 31, 2014

By Susan Spiers

Guest Columnist 

The adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by Mississippi has resulted in confusion and emotional argument, to say the least. Any time significant changes are made in any situation, there is concern and discomfort. People, for the most part, don’t like change and are often quick to judge.

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For 17 of my 31 years as a teacher, I have designed curricula based on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Thinking Skills. Benjamin Bloom reasoned that in order to fairly judge anything, we must first know about it, comprehend it, learn to apply it, and analyze it. That is what educators are currently doing with the CCSS, and my goal today is to enlighten you.

The CCSS stemmed from work led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors’ Association (NGA). Initiated in 2009, it took 16 months to launch. Educators from every state gave feedback before the final draft. Adopting

CCSS was not mandatory; however, the U. S. Department of Education provided financial incentives to states who adopted CCSS, most prominently via Race to the Top initiatives. The standards are for K-12 in the subjects of English, language arts, and math.

Let me clarify what a “standard” is and how it differs from a “curriculum.” A standard is a goal or expectation. It specifies what a student should know or what skill she/he should be able to do. Good standards are clear and realistic, are written so that if students meet them, they will be successful in future endeavors, and are designed to increase students’ problem-solving capabilities and critical thinking skills. A curriculum is a program created by teachers. It consists of lessons, materials, and assessments used to meet standards.

The standards do not dictate the curricula. Local teachers and administrators decide how the standards are to be met. We devise our own lesson plans and tailor instruction to meet the needs of our students, and we choose our own resources.

I may be tarred and feathered by the end of some reading this paragraph, but here goes! I like the Common Core Standards. Here’s why: I wish I had been taught this way. The focus of CCSS is for students to be able to apply knowledge rather than simply regurgitate facts. The length and sophistication of writing is increased– finally! Students learn to be problem solvers and researchers. There is more emphasis on vocabulary. In math, students not only must calculate correctly, but also must master the underlying concepts and patterns. Dear reader, these are the skills our students need to succeed in college and the work force.

According to analysis by ACT, three-fourths of students entering college “were not adequately prepared academically for the first year of college courses.” Students spend more than 5.6 billion dollars on remedial college courses each year in the U.S. Something IS broken, and it needs to be fixed!

Some have condemned CCSS saying that it “dumbs down the curriculum.” Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s study found that these standards were superior to current math standards in 39 states and superior to English standards in 37 states. Sadly, Mississippi has hovered around 50th place in the nation.

We truly have nowhere to go but up.