In recent years, the majority of states have adopted the Common Core State Standards for K-12 mathematics and English language arts. Even though these standards have been in place and actively used since 2011, their critics remain numerous, from parents to educators to legislators, who often approach
Common Core from a political standpoint. Unfortunately, criticisms of Common Core often reflect knee-jerk reactions and obscure the many benefits that these standards deliver to states. For those who have only seen negative headlines regarding Common Core, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and view the bigger picture—Common Core has done a lot of good for stakeholders across the educational arena. Each involved party has benefited from Common Core in the following ways.
Prior to Common Core, the content of and coverage included within a state’s standard system, not to mention individual district’s or school’s interpretations of them, depended on a number of variables. Common Core eliminates these inconsistencies by creating unified and cohesive standards for K-12 mathematics and English language arts. These standards guide the development of curriculum for all schools and students in a given state, setting clear benchmarks and expectations. Common Core also places a strong emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving rather than rote memorization or computation. This means that students in states that have adopted Common Core are learning to think in ways that can transfer and apply to a multitude of new contexts, not simply to perform or repeat specific actions in predictable circumstances. These types of skills are integral to success in today’s dynamic global society.
Common Core provides a carefully articulated, robust framework for full curricula in math and English language arts. This means that even as teachers develop lessons that are creative and customized for the unique needs of their students, they also can maintain a steady focus on the knowledge and skills that their students need to master by referencing the standards and their associated literature and appendices as needed. The challenge of vertically aligning curricula across grade levels is also considerably simplified and clarified due to the existence of the Common Core standards. Moreover, the universality of the Common Core has given rise to vast libraries of online resources on teacher sharing sites and edtech platforms that educators can use for research purposes or to build and supplement their instructional materials with ease.
Common Core establishes standards for mathematics and English language arts across the entirety of a given state. This means that regardless of where districts are located, they share a consistent set of standards with all other public schools within the state. This helps with statewide coordination of assessment preparation and delivery, and also eases transitions for students and teachers who move from one district to another.
Common Core’s standards are more rigorous than previous state standards, promoting higher order thinking skills and metacognition in novel and innovative ways. In fact, much of the criticism of Common Core stems not from the content of the standards themselves, but rather from the way in which they have been implemented and executed on a classroom level. As Common Core becomes better integrated into state curricula, participant states’ graduates will be well-prepared to enter into college or careers and to make meaningful contributions within their communities and to society at large. Although there is still progress to be made in terms of how Common Core is implemented, the standards themselves are comprehensive, rigorous, and forward-thinking, and as such, their potential to change the face of education in the U.S. is truly inspiring. But, as with any new initiative, time, and patience, is needed in order for this incredible potential to be realized.