Common Core or Rotten Core?

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The Common Core Standards are the result of a federally-supported effort to establish clear and rigorous national standards with which to judge American students’ educational progress.

The Common Core Standards are coming! The Common Core Standards are coming!

The Common Core Standards are on the educational horizon, though their advent perhaps does not have the same urgency as an impending British invasion. In 2014, all but a few states are scheduled to implement the Common Core Standards (“CCS”) in their K-12 public school classrooms.

The CCS is the result of a federally-supported effort to establish clear and rigorous national standards with which to judge American students’ educational progress. The Standards cover two general areas: English Language Arts and Mathematics. The explicit goal of the CCS is to effectively “prepare children for college and the workforce.”

Controversy over the Common Core Standards has increased as the implementation deadline looms and several states which originally committed to CCS are now backing out. Interestingly, the divide over the CCS is not necessarily along political party lines.

Proponents of the CCS argue that the Standards are a much-needed answer to the search for greater seriousness and unity in America’s K-12 curriculum. The CCS does this by focusing on primary source documents and less “fluff” reading and writing. A 2010 study conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concluded that the CCS were indeed “clearer and more rigorous” than the standards currently employed by three-quarters of U.S. states. If true, the CCS would be a great boon to American education, especially since the latest ACT results show that state standards aren’t adequately preparing students for college.

Yet others argue that the Standards are not rigorous enough, for they only equip students to handle course work at a two-year college, and not a university-level school. Curriculum expert Marion Brady raises other objections to the CCS, some of which include the fact that they don’t provide teachers with enough freedom; they don’t address the needs of individual students; they don’t address the real problems with education in this country; and that they promote a deficient pedagogy. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and former proponent of the CCS, has recently voiced objections to the Standards as well, largely out of fear that teachers will not be prepared enough to teach them.

One of the biggest problems opponents have with CCS, however, is that the Standards open the way for an unprecedented intrusion of the federal government into states’ rights. Education in America has traditionally been left to state and local control due to a common understanding of the 10th Amendment. Yet with almost mass acceptance of the CCS, some fear that these Standards lay the groundwork for the future implementation of a national curriculum that would dictate the content of all students’ education, even those in private and home schools.

The Common Core Standards are coming, and you should probably gain some familiarity with them, as they will most likely shape American education in the near future.

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