Why We Need The Common Core — It is the next BIG THING

First, I must say that I will be wearing my rubber suit when I write this.  So, lash out at me as you must.

What is it that is so frightening about the Common Core State Standards? Is it giving up some control? What students must know and be able to do is less defined–you need to encourage thinking, and deeper thinking at that. Is it those tests and what their evaluation means? How can I prepare students for tests with such big stakes? Maybe if I ask questions and let students seek answers and put them in charge of their own learning, maybe they won’t learn what is on the test? What will happen to me if scores go down?

For some of these questions, I don’t have an answer. I do know that the world is more complex and so education must offer opportunities for students so they are ready for this world. I also know that all the critical thinking and out of the box skills are great, but if information gathered through this method is not information on a basic multiple choice test, the test scores will not be good. You can have the best school in the world with great learning, but if that is not what is tested, the scores will not be good.Teachers are afraid and want to have answers: TELL ME WHAT TO TEACH. That is hard to do if you want to encourage creativity and adaptability. They are not things to memorize like the capitals of all the states.

Frankly, I can’t see the purpose in memorizing stuff like that. You can answer that question in .2 second on Google. What may be worthwhile is where to find information and how to determine if it is valid. Learn how to substantiate an argument, take apart or defend a premise. These are valuable skills. The use of  creativity and critical thinking and can be applied to anything.

So that is it  —  the reason why we now have the Common Core State Standards. And I understand the fear–how can you measure accountability for something that is not black and white.  Is this another “flavor of the month” where teachers have to change what and how they teach? Again, the CCSS are a framework. They tell you what students should know and be able to do, not how to teach them. The implementation is up to the teachers.  It doesn’t always look the same but the end-resulting skills should be the same. Everyone in the country will know and learn certain things at the same age. To me, it is the dream of anyone who is obsessive compulsive and wants to know what will be. At the same time, I understand the fear of the unknown and of something new and different. No one is going to tell you exactly what to teach. ( I know test companies and text developers will. That is commercial enterprise. The CCSS can be implemented without that). Teachers must become accustomed to formative daily assessment in all subjects. Teachers must get more comfortable with the role of facilitator of students’ education rather than the deliverer of knowledge.

If you are doing the same lessons you have always done and you never change anything, do you think that is right? Shouldn’t things always change and evolve? I think it is easier to accept that the Common Core is really the next big thing and look at what it has to offer. Teaching critical thinking skills and the interconnectedness of all the subjects gives perspective.  It does not have to be just about a commercial opportunity. It may be an OPPORTUNITY. (I do understand-I am not naïve.) I suggest taking advantage of the situation instead of using it and acting defensively. Teaching is an art and it must be facile and flexible to change with the times. The time for change/redesign/revamp is now.

Categories: 21st Century Education, Common Core Standards, critical thinking, Education reform, Uncategorized

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