13 July 2011

the common core - my thoughts

The last few days have found me researching the Common Core. I am about to attend my final class for my Master's program and I had to do a research paper for class. I was allowed to choose the topic, as long as it related to education administration in some way. I decided early on in the class I would do my paper on Merit Pay. I'm the only student in the class with no aspirations of being a principal. I would like to move into Curriculum Administration one of these days and I felt Merit Pay might be something I would have to deal with at some point. However, for reasons I might get to here in the next several months, I decided to change my topic to The Common Core.

Most of what I have seen about the Common Core Standards has been negative. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I am vehemently in support of the Standards now that I have done some research and read them myself. Critics say teachers had no part in writing the current standards (so far, only English/Language Arts and Mathematics). All I can say to that is the Common Core Standards Initiative rebuts that with some very well written standards. As a professional educator, I recognize a well-written objective/guideline/standard when I see it and that's what I see when I read this and this.

Others say the standards amount to a national curriculum. Teachers who buy into that rhetoric are a big part of the problem with today's educational system. If you can't recognize the difference between being told what students need to know and what you can teach to students, you might talk to your district about some professional development. It should be something akin to your Methods Class from your undergraduate degree because that's where you should have learned to distinguish between objectives/standards and curriculum.

Rigor. That's what I got when I read the Standards. When I read them I thought about problem-solving, persistence, analysis, pattern-recognition, evaluation, and application. Students who meet these Standards will be able to not only find information, but use that information in an unfamiliar situation. If you memorize how to solve a puzzle, are you really problem-solving? No! You have to be able to take what you have learned and apply that to another, new situation. Sounds a lot like the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy to me.

Here's a piece of advice, before you start thinking or speaking negatively about this, go read them yourself. Don't believe what you hear or read. Not even what I've said here! If you are reading this, you are likely a trained education professional. Go read the Standards, think critically about them, evaluate whether or not they can be useful to changing the face of American Education and make your own decision. Just because I like them doesn't mean you have to.

However, know that the Common Core Standards are likely coming to a state near you. Depending on what you read, somewhere between 37 and 48 states have adopted the Standards or are beginning the process of adoption. Why not embrace them and find a way to be successful within that framework? You can whine and moan about it all you want, but at some point you have to ask yourself, how can I learn to be happy about this? Because it is coming!

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