Common Core, the latest reconfiguration of education in the United States, is causing confusion and frustration for many public schools, teachers, and parents. While it was meant to bring consistent standards and benchmarks, in both English language arts and math, to every school in America the implementation of the tests and standards has not been seamless or received positive feedback.
In 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) met to create the Common Core standards for English language arts and mathematics for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The NGA stated that they created the standards to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.” The NGA also stated that, “the standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.”
A popular criticism leveled against Common Core is that the test questions were created without any feedback or recommendations from schoolteachers or administrators. The NGA developed the questions and had them copyrighted by the NGA Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. However, these two entities did not allow for any review or critiquing by the actual educators who must now prep their students for the tests. This has created classrooms full of anxious and stressed teachers who must forgo their planned curriculum so that they can teach to the tests. This teaching method is creating unnecessary strain and pressure on teachers whose jobs are now at stake depending upon their students’ test scores.
While standardized testing can be helpful in discovering and improving the skill sets and knowledge of students, many of the questions created for the Common Core tests are well beyond the understanding of some of the students. Particularly for young learners, the standards and questions do not always match what is appropriate to expect from children at a certain age. How is this “relevant to the real world” or “reflecting the knowledge and skills [of] our young people”? There is a difference between challenging topics and ones that do not match what children are developmentally able to comprehend. Input from teachers and other educators could have prevented this problem.
Other negative opinions of Common Core’s standards and testing touch on the lack of consideration for other factors which contribute to a child’s intellectual development. How they are progressing cannot be completely measured by standardized tests. A child’s growth and learning is also impacted by the following factors:
- Home environment
- Physical health and/or impairments
- Mental health and/or learning disabilities
- Individual learning style
- Culture and family heritage
- Intrinsic and extrinsic motivators
Instead of focusing on the physical, emotional, educational, and social development of children, teachers must now spend the majority of their time teaching to the standards. Common Core has removed much of the creativity from teaching and replaced it with rote learning and uniform education. Classroom lessons and activities can no longer be tailored to the individual needs of the children who are to learn from them but to the federal government’s expectations.
While Common Core was created with good intentions in mind for our students and schools, it still needs to be refined and the implementation needs to include the very people who are tasked with teaching our children, our educators. There needs to be more discussion between teachers, administrators and the government entities in charge so that everyone can agree on the standards, adjust to the new system, and find better means for its implementation.
The implementation of Common Core and the development of our students will not occur overnight. Everyone involved in the education system must work together in order to make sure our students are receiving the best education and the assistance they need so they can thrive within the standards and benchmarks of the new Common Core.