Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Part 1: The Common Core Grinding Stone

Republican politicians are erroneously pointing the finger at Obama, claiming that the Common Core Standards are a covert means to take over an already socialized education system. Democrat talking heads are equally appalling in their wolf-crying of corporations funding the insidious program behind the Common Core. It seems that everyone has an axe to grind, and the Common Core Standards have more myths surrounding them than they do Standards inside of them—and that’s a lot.

Let’s take two blog posts to set the record straight--today, we're looking at what the Common Core Standards are not. Tomorrow, we'll look at what they are.

What the Common Core Standards Are Not

1) Curriculum

While the Common Core Standards may impact the type of curriculum taught in schools, it will rarely do so directly. The Common Core contains performance standards that are actually designed to provide educators more freedom in their curriculum decisions.

This is because the Common Core only specifies which skills a child must be able to perform, and leaves the rest in the hands of educators. The methods instructors employ to teach skills, and the curriculum they use, is by and large left up to states, districts, schools, and teachers.

2) Just for math and English teachers

Though the bulk of the Common Core Standards apply to mathematics and ELA teachers, the Standards are not the exclusive domain of math and English. The Common Core outlines literacy standards for nearly everyone who uses instructional texts to teach, including history, social studies, science, and technical subjects.

3) A federal program

There is a common misconception that the Common Core State Standards are a federal program, developed and passed by Congress or the Department of Education. This is not the case. The misconception may stem from the fact that the federal government requires states to adopt the Common Core in order to qualify for Race to the Top funding.

Though the Common Core is tied to Race to the Top funding, the Common Core is not currently required as requisite to any other federal education initiative (Title 1, NCLB waivers, etc.).

4) Going to be exactly the same in every state

Many worry that adopting the Common Core Standards amounts to giving up state control over what is taught in schools. This concern is understandable, given that official Common Core compliance requires that states adopt 100 percent of the Standards—nothing altered, nothing discarded.

However, while they cannot change the content of the existing Standards, every state has the right to add to them. Compliant states are required to adhere to a 85/15 rule in which 85 percent of a state’s standards consist all of the Common Core, but as much as 15 percent can be new standards written by the state. Currently, 11 of the 45 Common Core compliant states have added new, unique standards, while a number of other states have reserved the right to add standards in the future.

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