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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

5 Reasons to Support the Common Core

It's a tough time to be a teacher. More than ever, we seem to have the weight of the world thrown upon our shoulders. The term "Common Core" seems to be constantly at-large, on the lips of everyone from teachers and administrators to news reporters, Facebook friends, and that one guy/gal down the street who always has an opinion on everything.

It can be challenging to stay positive when it seems like your job and your purpose is being surrounded with negativity. That is why I think it is important to stop and think about the positive things that are happening in our profession. While the Common Core is by no means perfect, there are many things that people tend to overlook when criticizing it. I therefore present to you:

I'm sure I missed some good ones so this is, by all means, not an extensive list :) I just think it's time for us to start having some constructive conversations about the Common Core. Here goes!


As teachers, I believe it is essential that we advocate for ourselves and for our profession. Part of this includes supporting what we are doing within our classroom walls. How do we expect parents and community members to support what is going on in the schools if the teachers within those schools are not supporting it themselves? 

This also includes educating parents on the misconceptions behind the Common Core - it's the first step in shrinking the wide range of misinformation and/or ignorance surrounding the standards.

For the time being, the Common Core is here to stay*.  Why not learn to embrace it?  You don't need to love it in its entirety, but while it's here, why not focus on its positive aspects?

*For those who are quick to jump in at this point and say that other states are pulling out of the Common Core, compare the "new" standards with the CCSS. I'm willing to bet they look suspiciously similar ;) 

This is probably the misconception that drives me the most crazy. The curriculum (albeit "Common Core aligned") and the standards are two completely different things. All of these "crazy" "Common Core" math problems parents are posting on Facebook are nowhere to be seen in the Common Core. These are problems based on the publisher's interpretation of the standards and their implications for learning. Even ten frames (which are seen practically everywhere these days) are not in the standards. 

Thus, the problems most people seem to have with the Common Core are actually problems with the publishing companies and corresponding curricula set in place by a school district. Take a look at the standards by themselves. It's hard to argue that any of those standards are irrelevant or unimportant to teach. Chances are, these are things you were already teaching in your classroom before the CCSS came along. 

Oh, and hey: This includes PARCC (I see you over there, PARCC). The PARCC test is not part of the Common Core. PARCC is a test that was designed by a "he-who-shall-not-be-named" publishing company as one standard way of measuring students' proficiency of the standards. It is not part of the standards themselves. 

Reality check: The Common Core is not taking anything out of education. It is not a curriculum and it is not telling teachers how they should be teaching (if you have a basal/specific program, see reason #2).  Personally, this is the main reason why I do support the standards - it gives me a set of goals that I should be working towards with my students. How I achieve those goals is up to me.

For example, the first standard for both literature and informational text in first grade is asking and answering questions about a text. Any text. A text that I love to read. One of my favorites. Or, perhaps, one of my students' favorites. A text for which I have a cute craft or extension activity. A text I might use as a connection to another subject area or standard. A text that I genuinely enjoy teaching. The opportunities for this one standard are practically endless.  It is all of the possibilities that ignite the creative excitement within the teacher-me.  I can teach in a way that I think is both effective and engaging for my unique group of learners, as long as it meets the standard. A wide-open opportunity to differentiate and teach things the way I think is best? Score.

A huge problem we have right now is the fact that the world is changing but our minds are fighting to stay the same. Many are beginning to question why we are changing our instruction from the way things were "always done".

The simple answer: Because the world is not how it "always was". It's no secret that the United States has some significant competition out there in the world market. If we want to stay in the ring as one of the world's leading nations, our students need to be equipped with higher-level skills. Which brings me to point #5...

"Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you will land among the stars."  As trite as this inspirational quote may be, I think it is applicable to the vision of the Common Core.  Some argue that the standards are unrealistic and unattainable for some students.  I definitely agree.  While it would be perfect if all students in the United States could reach the same end goal within the school year, we all know that is unrealistic.

However, why not aim high?  Why not shoot for the moon?  If the goal is for your student to reach the top of the tree, the tree is most likely the highest they will go.  But what if we set the same high standards for everyone?  What if by appropriately scaffolding material, we made it so that some students reach the top of the tree, while some go even higher?  More often than not, we end up surprised by our students' abilities to rise to the challenge at hand.  Maybe they don't all reach the same end goal, but by providing them with high expectations, they just might have gone further than they would have before.

*Exhales deeply* Just some food for thought. Feel free to share any constructive thoughts in the comments :)

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