What is “The Common Core” and how will your child be affected by it? The Common Core is a K-12 English (language arts) and mathematics minimum academic standards set of benchmarks meant for all students in the US with an emphasis on preparing for college or career.
The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers appointed a commission to develop these standards in 2008.
The 2008 report, “Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education” asserts, “…because benchmarking is also-and most critically about improving policy, states must take the lead.” Therefore adoption and implementation of the Common Core standards comes via the state.
The decision for state implementation has been largely due to previous overwhelming rejection of federal involvement. In both the Bush and Clinton administrations history standards were rejected often by a large margin.
Fears that the federal government would not deal with educational issues within constitutional limits is thought to be the key motivating factor for the defeats.
The perceived need for national standards has persisted, however, and reappeared as a state led initiative.
Accepted & Updated in Florida
As of July 15, 2014, forty-three states have approved Common Core standards.
Each state legislature retains the authority to assign adoption and implementation of the new standards, usually entrusted to the state board of education.
The state of Florida adopted the standards July 27, 2010 and planned implementation during the 2013-14 school year. The Florida State Board of Education has already updated the Common Core (edits to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year) with their own standards called the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Florida Standards (MAFS).
The Common Core touches a tender nerve with parents, teachers and administrators. Agree or disagree, both sides of the argument are helpful to consider.
Advocates of The Common Core often argue these advantages.
1. American schools need more rigorous standards to stay competitive in the global economy. Virtually all international testing reveals American students falling seriously behind many other countries in all subjects. This seriously compromises the competitiveness of American students in the marketplace upon graduation. An aggressive higher standard is necessary.
2. Better standards could prevent the need to spend added funds on things such as special courses for high school students.
3. Children moving from state to state will be academically more stable when the standard is the same.
4. Common benchmarks powerfully enable and motivate schools and teachers to reach and accomplish a more aggressive academic standard.
5. Schools and teachers who fall behind standards can be better identified and effectively assisted.
Opponents often discuss these objections to The Common Core.
1. Control of education should be kept in the hands of parents, in partnership with local education professionals. While current Common Core standards may be generally acceptable, it won’t stay that way. When in power, officials change and impose their philosophical political agendas.
This has already happened. Since accepting the common core standards in 2010, the State of Florida decided to ‘update’ and require. With that level of government control, where does it stop? Education should never be accessible to politics.
2. The Common Core reduces teacher autonomy in the classroom. Teachers are bound by an academic “straightjacket” requiring them to teach information rather than students. Different students have different learning styles and needs that only a teacher can address.
For instance, Teachers need autonomy to allow a more effective transition and assimilation of international students.
3. Not only do all students not learn the same way, but they do not test the same way. Increased use of identical-standardized testing is likely to negatively impact many students’ success.
4. Some parents and educational professionals have sincere concerns about protecting the privacy of testing data.
5. Others contend The Common Core is just that, common and minimum for all students. This is not improvement, but common-izing education. For years the international assessment exams reveal U.S. academic performance scoring behind many other nations. State exams are already in effect. Let’s advance to more — beyond a common core.
6. The Common Core is just another attempt by government to compromise the freedom of religion and private religious education, a constitutional privilege and guarantee in America.
Whether you approve or disapprove of The Common Core, being involved in your children’s education is the best thing you can do for your children’s sake. They are totally dependent on our thoughtful and prayerful action to give them a solid future.
Pat Colangelo contributed to this article. Steve Davis, Ed. S. and Pat Colangelo, Ed. S. are adjunct professors at Trinity International University. Steve teaches adult development and writing, and Pat administers and teaches courses within the Elementary Education BA degree toward Florida State Certification for aspiring teachers.