Is this Commom Core just a New York state thing? I am lucky in that my daughter is graduating school this year. She was already past all of the grades that switched to this common core way of teaching. I keep hearing horror stories about it though. Do any other states have this? What are your thoughts on this?
Posted 05 June 2014 - 08:34 PM
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a program developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers and is heavily backed by the Federal Department of Education along with numerous industrial figures like Bill Gates.
It is basically a set of standards regarding what should be learned in English and Math at each grade level in the K-12 schools. It is intended to ensure that students around the country have the same base knowledge no matter what state they live in, where in the past those standards have varied widely, not only between states but between public and private schools (including homeschooling, so there's no real way to completely avoid it if you want to pass the standard equivalency tests for a high school diploma). It is intended to make sure that students are better prepared for either work or college by making sure that prerequisites are agreed upon and that certain types of knowledge are set up as required, in many cases reformulating traditional requirements to be focused more on the "Real World."
While most of the standards are focused on the exact knowledge that is to be required, it also at least encourages new methods of learning. Principal among these is the notion of working in teams. A major complaint of businesses is that students--especially those who have not attended college, but even many of those who have--have no idea how to work cooperatively on a team toward a goal, something that managers like me consider essential, even beyond having technical knowledge.
Common Core was targeted for initial implementation this year in a large number of states including New York and California, so it is just now undergoing its first trial-by-fire and is much in the news. It is not universally adopted though so the paranoid can always move:
Forty-four of the fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia are members of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, with the states of Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska and Indiana not adopting the initiative at a state level. Minnesota has adopted the English Language Arts standards but not the Mathematics standards.
I have a number of friends who are teachers in California at various grade-levels, so while my own daughter also graduated just before this kicked in, I've become fairly familiar with the current state of Common Core.
What is interesting about the "controversy" is that the complaints about it come from both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum, although mostly from extremists who have in many cases completely unsupportable arguments against it. Here are just a couple, and we can discuss more as they come up.
Probably the biggest complaint on the Right is simply that it violates "States Rights." Usually the claim is that the Federal Government is forcing this down the throats of the states. While the Department of Education strongly supports Common Core and is helping with funding and producing materials, it is not a Federal program and is supported by the states themselves. Often this argument is used to mask the worry that it will force kids to learn about Evolution or Climate Change, however the standard does not currently include Science although that is underway driven by a separate group for implementation at some point in the future.
On the Left the complaint is that this is an initiative that is heavily promoted by the now multi-billion dollar education business. A quiet revolution that has occurred over the past few years is the consolidation of the school book publishing industry and the testing industry in combination with new online-learning technologies. Much of the work that used to be done by school districts to do curriculum development has been outsourced to these publishers who charge massive fees for their wares. Some of the complaints here are about the push for corporatist positions (essentially the same issue on Climate Change, but from the opposite side), but the primary complaint is simply shipping 20% of limited school funds that could be spent on teachers and facilities to pay for the profit margins required by those company's investors.
Teachers themselves are split, most actually like the content and style innovations (especially the group project emphasis), but they are in the deathly position of having school districts which basically outsourced all curriculum development to those publishers who now find the publishers are way behind on developing those curricula, and the school districts turning around to the teachers and saying "we went ahead and required standards this year, so you're just going to have to develop all your course materials yourself."
That's led to a lot of very unhappy teachers.
Nonetheless most of the teachers I know are just working their butts off this year and are mostly happy with what they've accomplished even if the teacher's union is doing what they ought to and complaining that the teachers had to just about double their workload this year with no additional pay. So you hear stories about the "teachers being against it" which in fact they mostly are not.
There are other issues too, but I'll let people put them up on their own.