Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why NC Needs the Common Core

I've updated this post, adding new resources to articles in support of and opposition to the CCSS at the end of the post.

Districts and schools across the state have spent enormous amounts of money on providing professional learning opportunities as well as stipends for teachers to work on curriculum alignment, assessment development, and unit and lesson planning. Disregarding this when districts have little to no professional development funding would be the worst kind of stewardship.

Teacher education programs have revised their curricula to prepare future educators for developing students' proficiency with the Common Core State Standards. Graduates from our teacher education programs are in the position to be leaders in curriculum and instruction, perhaps having more exposure to the CCSS in their preparation programs than some in-service teachers. Shifting away from the CCSS would not only harm in-service teachers but also put teacher education graduates at a disadvantage.

The spiraling nature of the Standards for English Language Arts has given teachers at different grade levels a common language to use when discussing teaching and learning. This consistency benefits schools and districts, but more importantly, it benefits students. The CCSS enables teachers to collaborate across grade levels and design a consistent learning experience for students from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

The CCSS, while not perfect (nor is any other set of content standards) aim to develop students' conceptual understandings of mathematics. In the past, many students learned math in procedural ways separated from meaningful contexts and real reasons to do math. When we focus on conceptual understandings, as the CCSS advocate, students are able to understand the "why" behind mathematics. Building a strong conceptual understanding of mathematics in the early grades is paramount. I fear that abandoning the Common Core would signal a return to a focus on procedural mathematics in which students only develop a surface-level understanding.

Student transiency rates are high, and transiency has been linked to decreased student achievement and increased dropout. Having a consistent set of content standards is one way to lessen the negative impacts of student transiency.

Contrary to popular belief, the Common Core is not linked to the devastating practice happening across North Carolina right now known as Read to Achieve. North Carolina has, for years, been assessment-crazed. The CCSS did not change that.

Folks who think the Common Core isn't working due to poor results on standardized assessments obviously don't understand how learning actually happens. You cannot transition to new content standards one year and expect all students to be proficient the next. When NC shifted to the CCSS, many students struggled due to gaps in their understanding, as is to be expected. Students in 5th grade, for example, did not have the benefit of developing strong conceptual mathematical understandings from Kindergarten. Giving up on the CCSS now would only cause another drop in test scores, as students are faced yet again with a transition to a new set of content standards.

The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce expressed that repealing the Common Core "would be such a step backwards that it could adversely impact the hiring of future workers." Read more here.

Don't just take my word for it. Below are links to other articles representing both sides of the Common Core debate. Honestly, I have yet to read a solid case for repealing the standards. The cases being made in opposition to the Common Core focus on implementation, not the standards themselves. If implementation is the issue, then states are to blame, not the standards.

Terry McCann: I Will Not Teach the Common Core

Policy Analysis: North Carolina Should Stay the Course on Common Core

Replacing Common Core to Cost NC More than Millions

Common Core: Pushback Grows in the Tarheel State

NC Should Stay the Course with Common Core