Keep the goal in mind, even as the road gets rough.
Newspaper articles, reports, blog posts, and feature stories are all telling different sides of the same story when it comes to Common Core Standards: Change is hard, it’s risky, and it takes time. In this post, we take a look at some of those stories and pull out a few common threads.Consider this quote from a recent New York Times story:“If the new mathematics standards adopted by New York and 44 other states work as intended, then children, especially in the lower elementary grades, will learn less math this year.” — Kenneth Chang, The New York TimesLess math? But weren’t these new standards supposed to turn our students into math virtuosos, competitive with kids in places like Singapore and Finland?Yes — and here’s how, Chang says: “by cutting back on a hodgepodge of topics and delving deeper into central concepts, the hope is that children will understand it better.” And yet, since this is not the way we’ve done things in American schools – remember the whole “a mile wide and an inch deep” paradigm? — it’s inevitable that the shift will take time, effort, and a measure of discomfort.So, it’s true that New York and Kentucky experienced less-than-stellar results from their first round of Common Core tests. And, as a recent editorial in the Orlando Sentinel warns, “Things will get worse before they get
better. … Common Core will feel like ripping a Band-Aid off a wound. It will hurt to learn our children don’t all meet today’s high standards.But it is a transition to graduates who are better equipped for success. (emphasis added)”
The moral of the story is, things will get better.
Sometimes, in the midst of the growing pains that accompany major — and even minor — changes, it’s easy to lose sight of just why we have chosen to put ourselves through the process.Education blogger E. D. Hirsch, Jr., wrote a piece titled “Why I’m for the Common Core: Teacher Bashing and Common Core Bashing Are Both Uncalled for” in which he reminds us how and why CCSS could revolutionize the way American education works. Here are the highlights of his argument:
- Common Core is the first multi-state plan to give substance and coherence to what we teach in public schools
- CCSS encourages the systemic development of knowledge
- The standards provide a framework for any state or locality to create the curricular coherence that could improve teacher effectiveness and lead to “massive gains in student learning.”
Common Core for the long haul
In the New York Times article cited above, Chang writes that state officials “have no doubts” about their commitment to Common Core; and, in Kentucky, the disappointing test scores are being used as an impetus for improvement.“‘The standards have changed and it’s time for us to update our instructional material to match the more rigorous learning expectations,’ said [Stephen] Tyra [principal of Bowen Elementary in Lyndon, KY]. (FromKy. Schools look to Singapore to raise math scores,USA Today)
Standards implementation calls for balance and patience
“Not even the most prescient among us can know whether the Common Core Standards will end in triumph or tragedy,” Hirsch writes. “If just one state or district shows the way, with big, unmistakable gains resulting, those results will influence many others.” This sentiment is echoed in an editorial inThe Guardian by teacher Ashley Lauren Samsa, who offers a cautiously optimistic view of CCSS. “The new standards are also open to allowing educators to keep what works and find new approaches to fix what doesn’t. We need to make sure our classes are balanced between the creativity, the critical thinking, and the career skills, for all of these things are vitally important for a life well lived.” (From “I welcome Common Core education standards, but let’s not forget creativity,”The Guardian.)Tell us: How are you preparing for the changes inherent in Common Core implementation?