This is a pivotal moment for the Common Core State Standards.
Although 45 states quickly adopted the higher standards created by governors and state education officials, the effort has begun to lose momentum. Some are now wavering in the face of misinformation campaigns from people who misrepresent the initiative as a federal program and from those who support the status quo. Legislation has been introduced in at least 12 states to prohibit implementation and states have dropped out of the two major Common Core assessment consortia. Opposition voices are growing louder as new assessments show students aren’t performing as well as they had on easier state tests offered previously.
The debate about the standards must be changed to ensure politics and mythology don’t derail a vital effort to improve opportunities for our kids as they are falling further behind their international peers.
Too often, supporters of raising expectations for our students are refuting broad claims that have nothing do with why we brought together teachers, education experts and employers to develop the Common Core initiative.
Instead, we must emphasize the real impact of this initiative in our classrooms.
Contrary to claims by opponents who say we’re taking away local control of curriculum, how educators teach the standards is entirely up to them. We have clear illustrations of teachers and administrators across the country developing innovative ways to help their students meet the new benchmarks.
In Delaware, elementary instructors have come together to teach basic physics concepts such as force and motion. They developed a creative hands-on lesson in which the students build and refine toy sail cars. As one teacher in the program said, the hands-on practice students “are getting now is teaching them way better than any worksheet or textbook.”
In a Michigan elementary school, the shift to the new standards led educators to develop methods for teaching concepts at greater depth and in ways that allow students to apply those concepts to many scenarios, rather than through memorization. A second-grade math class is now using “bar models,” a technique that has proved effective in some of the highest-performing schools in the world. The district’s math specialist says they’ve “seen a lot of positive feedback from teachers because they’re able to take their students a lot further this year.”