The Common Core.
The beast that so many educational reformers have been battling for the past few years now. And those advocates have their reasons, whether they be political or personal, but I have yet to encounter anyone (in my realm of reading articles, blogs, talking with teachers) who can legitimately tell me why the Common Core Standards are not effective academically. I have heard some of these complaints about our CCSS:
“They will not stick around…they will be gone in 5 years.” (To this I ask, so what standards are you teaching if we have adopted the CCSS here in our state?)
“They are too writing intensive.” (I can’t even go there…)
“They take all the creativity out of teaching and learning.” (I have managed to do a lot of creative things with the CCSS.)
“I can’t teach the way I want because the standards tell me how to teach.” (No. They tell you what to teach, not how to teach. And maybe your teaching needs some re-vamping anyway if you are that concerned about not being able to teach the way you “want” as opposed to making sure students learn.)
“It’s so complicated, I can’t figure out what they are trying to tell me to do.” (I can’t even go there, either…)
So, I will share with you a few ways the CCSS has helped me, and my students, improve over the past year.
1.) My planning is more coherent.
When I am planning a lesson, I keep in mind the standard(s) I am striving to teach my students. It keeps my goals and objectives clear and my instruction streamlined. My students appreciate this.
2.) I am no less creative.
My students do a lot of creative projects…at home…and the tough stuff–the analyzing, evaluating, and assessing–is done in school where support is available.
3.) The kids “get it”.
The CCSS are for teachers AND students. I show my students the standards and explain the end game of every lesson. There are no secrets and the kids know exactly what is expected of them. I also use rubrics based on the CCSS for clarity.
4.) Rigor is natural.
The standards themselves are quite rigorous, so if you follow them, rigor becomes a natural part of what you do in class every day. No worries about providing “extra work” or even “busy work” because students are already busy enough…you know…with learning.
5.) There is a clear shift to academics being important.
Okay, maybe this is not a way it has directly helped me and my kids, but nonetheless, it is important to include. I am the first to say that school should be fun/interesting/worthwhile in order to keep our clients (students) wanting more. But recently we (Americans) have gotten carried away with school being more about social growth, and only social growth, in an effort to maintain that interest and fun. (It’s sad but true, see The Dumbest Kids in the World.) The job of an educational institution is to educate–socially, physically, emotionally and academically. Academics must be a large part of that whole picture and the CCSS help make it so.
If you have found that the CCSS are not working for you academically, I would like to hear from you. I can guarantee you that you’re probably making it harder than it has to be. And if your reasons are political…well…more power to you.