What Really Are Common Core Standards and Why Do They Matter?

According to Erin Powers (Education Consultant and Literacy Specialist) in a post on Edutopia, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent the most significant, widespread education reform that has ever occurred in American public schools.  These new standards are designed to link learning to 10 Career and College Readiness Standards intending to ensure students are ready to thrive in college and in the career world.

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One of the pluses of the new standards is that they recognize that learning builds through the grade levels.  Erin Powers says this “will help teachers focus on the big picture and see how their work with students is connected to a child’s academic past and future.”  Another plus is that the standards address the ever-increasing important issue of literacy and how teachers of all disciplines have a role in literacy development.  To ensure students stay current in ever-changing information age, CCSS also incorporates research and media skills  into every subject.  The recognition being that students must be able “to navigate through, independently, a vast amount of information, learn and mimic new genres, and communicate with others near and far.”

What has yet to be fully fleshed out is what the new assessments will look like.  Will the new PARCC tests demonstrate a student’s ability to think critically versus just regurgitate?  The states will begin the new testing in the 2014-2015 school year and that is right around the corner.

Finally, we already know sufficient funding has not been allocated for implementation.  What about time?  Teachers are already stressed with too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Will CCSS be just another mandate shoved down their throats without sufficient resources to properly implement?  Or, will they be allowed to help shape what it looks like, thereby being more open to taking ownership?

As Diane Ravitch recently pointed out in her blog, the CCSS are controversial and their flaws should be fully dissected.  As is usually the case, there is no one “silver bullet” to perfect our education system.  It will take dedicated people, working together, with sufficient resources to move ahead.  And of course, it is absolutely amazing what can get done if one doesn’t care  who gets the credit!

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