Common Core is the newest catch phrase being bandied about by educators. Much is being written about it and much is being discussed. However, like many new ideas, there is much misinformation circulating.
“The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have stirred up some anxiety for many people,” said John Popp, USD 428 curriculum director.
“Assertions that President Obama is trying to take over public schools, that it is a ploy to brainwash our children or that it will attack a child’s belief system are all extreme comments from people who have an incomplete view of the new standards,” he said.
“Statements that CCSS are a federal mandate, that states and schools will have no say in what they teach and that CCSS forces teachers to teach content they disagree with are examples of misinformation,” Popp said.
In an effort to set the record straight, Popp has developed some questions and answers to help district patrons understand what Common Core is and how it will affect local education.
How does someone find out the truth about Common Core and what kids will be learning?
All you have to do is look online at www.corestandards.org to learn for yourself. Don’t take my word for it or anyone else’s; decide for yourself.
I have read every word on every page of the standards. I want my kids to be in a school that is teaching the Common Core State Standards. You will not find anything in these standards that you do not want children to know.
If you are interested in this topic, call me, 793-1500; email me, email@example.com; or stop by the office, 201 S. Patton Road. You may also go to a teacher you trust and ask him or her to explain Common Core State Standards.
Why are some states opting out of Common Core?
It is the choice of every state to decide for itself.
Each state has the right and responsibility to adopt its own standards and the Kansas Board of Education has chosen to adopt the CCSS for English language arts (ELA) and math. It was under no pressure to do so. After months of review by teachers, professionals and the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE), the decision was made to adopt these standards.
Every seven years, KSDE has to update the content standards for each content area. The same process that has always been used is still being used. The team looks at the most current research and sample standards available to begin the process. The CCSS is the most recent document and body of research surrounding good math and ELA instruction. It would have been used heavily in the creation of standards for our state anyway.
Is what our kids learn in school a state or federal decision?
Neither. It is a local decision.
Kansas is a local control state, which means that, although the state board of education sets the standards for our state, it is the right and responsibility of each local school district and school board to decide the curriculum for the school.
That means that the same educators who taught our students before CCSS, will continue teaching them. We get to say what we teach kids. We use the standards as a guide, but we don’t throw away common sense or our own convictions and beliefs.
What does the change to CCSS really mean?
For USD 428 there will be some changes in content to restructure the order in which things are taught. There will also be changes, not in what we teach, but how we teach. For example, we will be trying to get kids to think deeper, to read more and to argue intelligently.
The difference between previous learning methods and new learning techniques can be demonstrated in the following scenarios:
• Kids working alone answering questions from information the teacher just explained versus a classroom of kids discussing questions and debating what they understood after reading a complex article;
• A teacher giving step-by-step instructions on how to solve a specific math problem versus a teacher posing a difficult question and giving the students the resources to figure out a solution; or
• A principal expecting to see a quiet, orderly classroom versus a principal looking for kids to be actively engaged in complex learning tasks.
CCSS asks us to help kids think deeply and argue persuasively for a position they research and adopt. CCSS does not ask us to change a student’s mind, but help them decide why they form the opinions they form.
It helps us see that a student who solves a complex problem is more likely to succeed in life than one who is handfed specific steps so solve a specific problem. Simply put, CCSS pushes us to help kids think through “how” and “why” instead of just answering who, what, when and where.
The world needs employees who can solve problems, persevere in a difficult task and work as a part of a team. We are striving to create those workers by helping students sift through questions, find the root cause and solve the problem, rather than just look at symptoms of a problem.
Schools have been tasked with teaching kids how to find real understanding and real problem solving. CCSS is the roadmap that shows us the way.
What will it cost?
Seriously, it will cost nothing more than what we have already devoted to training our staff and purchasing materials. USD 428 has a cycle that we go through to adopt new resources. It will take time, but we will get through all the content areas, adopting resources that are CCSS aligned.
We already have professional development time and will continue to train teachers on good teaching strategies. We will bring in more training with perhaps some additional cost, but not the significant spending changes predicted.
We have already been working on CCSS for three years and have been able to manage the budget effectively at the same time.
“Educators have kids in this school system, too, and we want people to understand the whole picture of CCSS,” Popp said. “CCSS has become a political game piece; however, it has been a great step forward to help prepare kids to be ready for real-life jobs.