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


  1. Do you realize that the curriculum is awful for common core? It requires you to do poor teaching. The kindergarten curriculum is not age appropriate. It's a lazy person's vision of teaching the same thing over and over rather than teaching to the actual needs/abilities of the age level. The math curriculum is so distorted, I don't know how these kids deal with it. They don't know how to do long division. I realize they designed it so that people know "why" the math is the way it is, but is it really necessary to create 411 steps when a problem can be solved in 10 seconds? There's nothing wrong with a procedure to solve a problem if they understood why when they began. We take short cuts all the time, and it results in efficiency and creativity.

    It's not the concept of a nationwide curriculum that's the issue, its the fact that they made bad curriculum that's the issue.

    For instance, it narrows down the curriculum to math and english. It prepares students for community college. The concept of academia will be obliterated with common core. In other words, in order for someone to attend a four year college, they will have to make sure that they either receive a different curriculum (home school, private school) or push themselves to somehow take classes ahead of schedule to get into the 4 year college level. It forces people to determine their pathway in life in 4th grade. This is not right! Not in a country where freedom is so important! A lot of kids may have difficult childhoods and may not be exposed to different career fields, and will be pigeonholed for lower paying jobs when they have the potential to do much more. This process is racist.
    I understand that you have a passion for doing what you think is right for students. You believe in this, but I wish you would go actually teach in a classroom where they don't know how to do multiplication, division, and barely understand number lines and addition/subtraction and see how things go. In 11th grade. In other words, they may understand the why, but there isn't enough time to get them good at it, fast, efficient.

    I taught 11th grade Finance this year and was amazed at the lack of math skills. Trying to teach them the elasticity of demand (basically the slope of the line) and the shifts in demand was like pulling teeth. Next year I'm going to have to have them actually graph out each example because they don't understand graphs when they get to me. They don't know how to move variables around in an equation.

    I am also against this because it narrows down education. By teaching the common core, you are going to destroy not only the education of children, but when people figure out that, they are going to abandon the education system in general. In other words it completely leads to failure which is why it is designed - to push the entire system into privatization.

    Don't be fooled by the wolf in sheep's clothing.

  2. I appreciate your taking the time to read my post and respond. We disagree, obviously. The Common Core is not the reason 11th graders can't do math. The lack of conceptual understandings in mathematics would be to blame. Your 11th graders have only been exposed to the CCSS for a very small portion of their schooling. Also, the CCSS doesn't narrow the curriculum to math & ELA. It gives states the flexibility to develop local standards for the other content areas. I actually believe the CCSS is as far from a "racist" curriculum as possible. The CCSS gives all students, everywhere, common language and a level playing field, as opposed to standards of the past which varied greatly by state. I don't disagree with the need to do procedural math and develop efficiency with mathematics. I use procedural math everyday. The issue arises when students are only taught the procedures without the foundation. Further, as with any set of standards, the CCSS is the "floor," not the "ceiling." The CCSS provides a foundation for what all students should know and be able to do, which can then be built upon by schools, districts, and teachers to develop locally important skills and concepts. Thanks again for engaging in this conversation.