It’s often said by critics that Common Core State Standards are too tough for our youngest learners, and that the play and experimentation time in schools will be lost. The reality is that the Common Core inspires critical thinking and problem solving, and these necessary skills can be developed even in our youngest learners. The standards are rigorous, and as a public school teacher I see the value in striving to meet the challenge. It’s true that my kindergarten classroom looks much more like a first grade room than a preschool, but that doesn’t mean students sit at desks all day and fill in worksheets so that they can reach the too-lofty heights of Common Core. When we “compose simple shapes to form larger shapes,” students create pictures using pattern blocks. We practice counting to 100 many times a day when we stomp our feet to 100, count to determine how much time it took to clean up; or to count out the pieces necessary to put together a puzzle. Recognizing the “key ideas and details” in a text isn’t about a worksheet, it’s about reading “Where the Wild Things Are” and discussing whether or not Max really hopped in a boat or if it was a dream. Many opponents argue that Common Core is a too-tough “curriculum” that increases a worksheet-driven, standardized-testing approach. Curriculum is determined by the school district; the Common Core
standards simply give grade-level expectations for our students. What we do as educators to get our students to that “goal line” is up to us. The Common Core standards ask our students to think more critically, and that’s something that intimidates a lot of teachers and parents. It truly should take our students further away from worksheets and testing and into deeper thinking. When we teachers have higher standards for our students, they more often than not rise to the challenge. As teachers, students and parents develop a better understanding of what Common Core really is (and is not) I believe that perception will change. These higher standards are all about giving our students a stronger foundation so that they are ready for the future.
Catherine Cushard is an elementary school teacher at Susick Elementary in the Warren Consolidated School District in Troy, Michigan.
Catherine Cushard is an elementary school teacher at Susick Elementary in the Warren Consolidated School District in Troy, Michigan. She serves on the school improvement and district science committees, and participates in English Language Learner and English Language Arts professional development initiatives. Catherine is also a Michigan Educator Voice Fellow.