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Understanding Common Core: A Breakdown of the Pros and Cons

A big change is underway in the world of American education.

Credit unknown. If you know the source of this image, please email Catherine.Crawford@patch.com
Credit unknown. If you know the source of this image, please email Catherine.Crawford@patch.com

Once a day, Patch tackles national news that affects your community. If you have suggestions for tomorrow’s story, email catherine.crawford@patch.com

Forty-five states have voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an educational initiative “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.” Common Core is meant to streamline state curricula through a set of universal specifications so that kids all over the country will be learning the same things. Some states have already introduced the new standards, and it’s scheduled to be fully implemented by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

But the mass-standardization has led to a huge backlash, including talk of a protest on November 18. Angry parents in states across the country have organized a walkout around that date.

It’s not surprising that a change this significant would rouse very strong opinions, yet just over two months ago, almost two in three Americans had never heard of Common Core. You can bet that as we draw closer to full implementation, we will all hear plenty. To prepare you for the onslaught, here is a breakdown of the most frequently voiced pros and cons of the new educational standards:

Pros:

1. More rigor: According to Kate Gerson with Regents Research Fund, a group that advises the New York education department, “Historically, in American education, we have done every concept in the world a mile wide and an inch deep.” The Common Core focuses on fewer concepts, but with more concentration. The hope is that this will foster deeper understanding.

2. International benchmarking: International benchmarking was used in the development of the standards for mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy in an attempt to raise the international ranking of American education. The goal is that American students from all over the country will compare positively with students in other top performing countries.

3. National continuity: For children who move around a lot, when schools teach roughly the same thing, students will likely have better luck staying on track with their studies. Additionally, the costs of test development in each state could decrease with all participating states using similar materials, and teachers across the country can more easily join forces and share ideas.

Cons:

1. Too Much federal control: For many who believe that the federal government already has too much power, the Common Core Standards seems like just another instance of central government usurping control from local school government.

2. A blow to the arts: While conservatives may fear a governmental takeover, many liberals fear that the change will cause even more testing that, worse yet, will focus mostly on math and science at the expense of art and creative writing. Faced with pressure to meet the standards, teachers will increasingly teach to the test, critics say.

3. Wasted resources: Both sides of the debate argue that money is a factor. Detractors of Common Core point out that, due to the revamp, many textbooks now being used will need to be replaced. Additionally, there are frequent reports of veteran teachers opting out and retiring early.

Do you think the Common Core Standards will be a good or bad thing for education in America? Tell us about it in the comments or in a blog post.

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