Common Core. What is it? What does it mean for our kids? What does it mean for our schools? Our teachers? The future of our society? Do we really want more federal control of local education?
The questions are endless, and the answers are convoluted. What’s to believe, and what’s to dismiss?
I visited with a chapter of Republic Women’s Federated this afternoon, and Common Core was a hot topic. The members of the group asked very pointed questions about our feeling with regard to the implementation of Common Core.
Some of the concerns in the room:
- loss of local control
- “fuzzy” math
- untested pedagogy
- children being used as guinea pigs
- outdated and biased textbooks
I get it. I’m a school teacher and have been faced with the looming “Common Core” for the past several years. I’ve been on district Common Core Committees, studied the Common Core State Standards, been asked to implement Common Core strategies in the classroom, and been part of numerous discussions about what Common Core means to the future of America’s children.
You know what I’ve come away with? As simple as it sounds, I have honestly come to understand the Common Core as an opportunity to ensure America’s children are college and career ready. Can they read, write, speak and listen? Common Core means literacy across the curriculum. I truly believe it’s that simple. Get kids reading, writing, speaking and listening in all class, and we will have a generation of kids ready for the 21st century world.
That’s what colleges and Fortune 100 companies (P21) have told us … we need students who are globally aware, critical thinkers, collaborators, creative, and able to communicate effectively. Clearly, what we’ve been doing with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) hasn’t worked and has, ironically, left our children behind. Colleges tell us every new school year with incoming freshman that the children they are being sent aren’t ready for the rigor of college. Companies tell us with every new high school graduating class that the graduates can’t communicate or problem solve. So what are we fighting against exactly? Do we really want what we’ve had the past twelve years? Do we really want another generation of students who are only taught how to pass a standardized test?
Common Core simply offers opportunities for our students to demonstrate mastery through well-structured project-based learning, giving them opportunities to synthesize information to solve problems, create, innovate, explore, and build.
I work at Oxford Academy, a nationally-recognized high school in Cypress. You would be hard-pressed to find a classroom still being instructed using the traditional-rows-of-desks configuration, a teacher still using the same old worksheets of fill-in-the-blanks that have been used for the past ten years, students unable to synthesize primary source documents to construct well-organized arguments in history, politics, literature, science and world languages.
Common Core at Oxford Academy means rigorous curriculums, engaged students responsible for their own learning, well-trained teachers to facilitate learning, an expectation that all students can learn and excel, and an openness to believe that our educational system can only get better.
Do challenges exist with the Common Core? Absolutely. No program, regardless the industry, is flawless, but Common Core is a step in the right direction, and I teach at a campus that allows me to say just that. I’ve seen it in action, and our kids excel.
In a nutshell, a Common Core classroom simply expects students will be able to:
- read and comprehend more complex texts
- write arguments supported by text-based evidence
- synthesize a variety of information to solve complex problems
- engage in a global community and be able to communicate effectively
Can a student more active in their own education and learning be a bad thing? Isn’t this just the type of person who ends up curing cancer, traveling unchartered missions into space, discovering the Autism link, solving the world’s natural resources challenges?
I believe it really is as simple … and complex as this.