by Matthew Boardman
Common Core will reform the standards for English language arts and mathematics in grades K-12, and is controversial for a variety of reasons. Common Core State Standards has been adopted by 43 states, including Washington. Washington adopted Common Core on July 20, 2011, with the goal of full implementation by the 2014-2015 school year, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) website. Information about Common Core in Washington can be found at www.k12.wa.us/corestandards. Opponents of Common Core have cited the costs, quality and legality of its implementation as reasons for not adopting it.
According to Pioneer Institute, Common Core could cost upwards of $15.8 billion over the course of seven years, of which states would largely be responsible for. California “is projected to incur significantly higher state assessment costs of approximately $35 million each year,” according to Pioneer Institute. According to CCSSI, “there will be some additional costs associated with the Common Core.”
By uniforming state standards, opponents fear that Common Core will create a standard based on the lowest common denominator. States with higher quality education standards would be taking a step back for the sake of uniformity. However, according to CCSSI, “The standards are designed to build upon the most advanced current thinking about preparing all students for success in college, career and life.”
Public education is a reserved power in the U.S. Constitution. Opponents of Common Core have argued that Common Core will be directed by the federal government, thereby violating state rights. According to CCSSI, Common Core is a voluntarily adopted set of standards. The states retain the right of structuring curriculum to reach the standards. “The Common Core is not a curriculum. It is a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met,” according to CCSSI.
Even amid the disorder, I find myself favoring Common Core. I don’t believe Common Core will necessarily be a drastically better system than its predecessor, nor do I believe it will be worse. I anticipate Common Core merely to be different. The uniformed standard allows for colleges and employers to compare applicants on an equal scale. The effort and understanding required to earn a specific grade will be equivalent across all participating states, without diminishing college readiness.
That said, the implementation of Common Core in Washington has been poorly executed. Martha Gady, head of math education in the mathematics and computer sciences department, said “the weakness of Common Core is with its implementation.” In Washington, Common Core has been phased into full implementation in school districts this year. Students taught from K-10 on the previous system are expected to enter junior year having mastered all previous Common Core standards. It’s simply not realistic, practical or reasonable. “The deadlines were not thought through,” Gady said. “Though it would have taken far longer, Common Core should have begun with a new class of Kindergarteners, and implemented the new standards at a yearly pace,” Gady said. In that way, students, teachers and curriculum alike could develop.
Whitworth’s undergraduate teacher-education program “has one of the highest placement rates in the state,” according to the Whitworth website. Many students at Whitworth have or will become teachers, and the implementation of Common Core will have noticeable effects. For recent math education graduates, Common Core is attempting to implement a new method of problem-solving in geometry called rigid transformations. Currently, there is a severe lack of textbooks to teach the new standardized material from. Common Core is a time of change in public education, and the accompanying upheaval will make the transition from studying how to teach to teaching a challenging one.
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