Here Comes Common Core

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Here Comes Common Core The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are an initiative geared to create a set of standards embraced and implemented by educational departments across the nation. As with most previous efforts to improve the quality of education through widespread curricular reform, the movement has faced opposition from its conception. With the deadline for No Child Left Behind’s expectation that all students reach full proficiency by 2014 quickly approaching, some states that initially supported the movement to CCSS are abandoning the effort and backing out, opting to stick with their own curriculum standards and state assessments. When the general consensus is that it is time to get students to know and do the right thing, the most common strategy used this century is to change the curriculum. Proponents of the Common Core State Standards are encouraged by the movement from standards that tend to be a mile wide and an inch deep to standards that promise to narrow the focus and deepen curricular understanding. The Common Core State Standards are meant to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy (U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2007). Developers of the standards began with the goals of providing clear expectations aligned to the expectations of college and careers, promote consistency by ensuring all students are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the U.S. and abroad, and enable collaboration between states on tools and policies. As of January 2013, 48 states and the District of Columbia were members of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, though some have recently decided not to continue with full implementation plans or are backing out of the initiative completely. The acceptance and adoption of the Common Core State Standards represent another era of education reform in the United States. Much like previous attempts at reform, writers of the CCSS have reached back into the memory banks to draw on previous standards from previous generations combining and tweaking as they went. The CCSS are basically a set of college preparatory standards intended for all children in the United States. The approach taken by common core is closely related to the ideas of Jean Piaget. His work described four stages of development: the sensorimotor stage from birth to 2 years; the preoperational stage, from 2 to eight years; the concrete operational stage from birth to 11 years, and the formal stage, from 11 to 15 years and up. While schools are attempting to reach the concrete operational stage, many middle and high schools and are still in the concrete stage of operational development The Common Core State Standards emphasize math, reading and writing. In early grades math, the focus has returned to basic skills performed without a calculator as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills. The focus for English Language Arts is on basic reading skills in early grades. The shift to CCSS seeks deeper mastery of less content each year, allowing for development of and usage of higher order thinking skills. Teachers can spend more time on what’s developmentally important at each stage rather than superficially covering topics just to check them off the list of covered skills. The standards are intended to focus on the core skills required for success in college and career. As history has repeatedly proven, standards are sure to change after sufficient time has passed for lawmakers and educators to forget the lessons their predecessors have learned through their continuous endeavors to improve student achievement. While the jury is still out regarding whether or not the Common Core State Standards will be a success or follow the path of past reform movements, for now, schools across the nation are training teachers and students on ways to deepen thinking skills and exercise evidence based reading and writing activities. Young students will no longer, at least until the next standards reform movement, be able to rob their brains of the important mental exercises of performing long division and other algorithmic based tasks by using a calculator. Older students will once again arrive in middle school with the basic foundations of arithmetic planted firmly in their minds. Students will be taught in ways that help them to think, read, and write critically rather than regurgitate information without thought or consideration for the subject matter. For a while, the nation may produce students who are prepared to enter the work force or college arena upon graduating high school. For a while, the U.S. may gain a rung or two on the ladder of international competition to be the best and brightest nation. Students of today, taught under the guidance of the Common Core State Standards may be the ones who, thirty years from now who look back at what education has become in their lifetime and say, “What was wrong with the days they used to teach Common Core?”

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