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What is Common Core?

In 2010, the Common Core State Standards were introduced to a collective groan from both parents and many educators.

The educational standards, now commonly known as Common Core, divided the country as news spread of ridiculous math problems that required a lot of explaining the math, and not enough doing the math.

Educents Experts decided to decode Common Core.

What’s The Word?

The Educents community hasn’t held back either. We gathered some of your thoughts on the new standards. Here’s what you said:

Many in our community agreed with Emma and echoed this sentiment – the implementation of the standards have been a major point of concern for many teachers and parents who worry that the new standards are confusing students who have become accustomed to pr-existing standards!

Natalie’s comment wasn’t just echoed in our community but also in comments across social media surrounding Common Core! The analytical approach to literary classics has been a point of contention for many.

Carrie’s comment was a much deeper hint at the modern family structure – American families today are constantly on the move. State standards that align across state borders are essential for these families. Many families are forced to roadschool as they move across the country, Common Core standards can at least put paid to these concerns!

While much of our community was concerned that the standards took time away from children with special needs and could leave them behind, a teacher thought that in her daily routine she was able to spend more time with students who needed more help than others.

Both sides have expressed their opinions ranging from absolute disgruntlement with the standards to tepid optimism.

But what are the standards anyway?

What Is Common Core?

The education benchmarks now known as the Common Core State Standards are a set of grade specific milestones that students are expected to achieve in English Language Arts (ELA) and literacy, as well as in Math.

As state standards across the United States grew increasingly disparate, Common Core standards were conceived as the solution!

Over 2007 and 2008, The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association began discussions to create new standards that were culled from state standards already in place, as well as international educational benchmarks from high-performing countries like Finland and Japan.

Then, between 2010 and 2012, spurred by $200 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the standards were finalized and implementation began in several states. While 45 states initially signed up to implement the standards – 42 states still use them.

Once the standards were implemented or ratified, teachers began spending time overhauling lesson plans. With the new focus on “cognitive demand” in the standards parents found themselves relearning math techniques they’d learned years ago.

Media outlets were having a field day keeping up with social media frenzy.

Many asked, unconvinced, how are the new standards better anyway?

Comparing The Old And The New

We put together the comprehensive list of pros and cons.

Big names on both sides of the political spectrum have supported the standards and opposed them. Many teacher unions sided with the opponents while supporters found unexpected alliance in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among others!

One question that both supporters and opponents failed to address in public media on the issue: How closely did the standards align with state and international standards after all?

Alignment With State And International Standards

A 2011 study analyzed available data to determine “the alignment index” – a measure of the extent to which two documents have the same content message. These measurements were based on the similarities between topics by cognitive demand within state standards and Common Core.

Alignment indices, the researchers measure for similarity between standards was low. Very low.

Here’s the alignment report card for each grade – the higher the number, the greater the alignment with state standards:

The Common Core standards clearly did not align well to pre-existing state standards. What was accounting for this difference in alignment?

The Differences

The new standards include almost no content relating to instructional technology (calculators etc.) while instructional technology made up 26% of state standards – meanwhile students are expected to take more standardized, computer based tests under the new standards.

According to the same study, Common Core standards also differ from international standards where there is a much greater emphasis on procedural performance. For countries where data was available, performing procedures is 75% of the content while for Common Core – performing procedures made up about 38% of curricular content.

The Common Core standards are also different from the standards of countries with higher student achievement, and they are different from what U.S. teachers report they are currently teaching.

In the end, the new standards have not been well received and many have expressed confusion with the implementation of the standards. Several states have revisited how they implement the standards and accommodate for children who are gifted or have special needs.

As the first of the data rolls in on how the standards is performing across the nation, parents and educators await the verdict on the new standards.


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