Common Core standards have ignited their own brand of controversy over the past few years. Supporters say that the standards, which apply to every subject, make it possible for more students to experience a successful learning environment. Opponents point to the structure of Common Core standards and how it seems to make learning more complicated compared to previous educational standards as a reason why it should be replaced. The pros and cons of Common Core standards in the United States show that the issue is more complex than many may realize.
What Are the Pros of Common Core?
1. The standards of Common Core are internationally benchmarked.
This means that students who can meet the standards of Common Core will be able to compete on a global scale in terms of their education. The United States has fallen behind other developed nations in regards to education quality, so having Common Core standards meet or exceed the same standards that other countries use can make the US become more competitive.
2. It creates professional consistency.
Before Common Core, many states in the US were able to set their own educational standards. Expectations could be very different from state to state, which meant teachers and other educators would need to learn new standards if transitioning to a different classroom or job in a different state. Common Core creates consistency in state standards, eliminating this issue almost entirely.
3. Common Core allows districts to share costs.
With Common Core state standards implemented, it becomes possible for all districts in each state where it has been approved to save money on common tasks. Creating tests, scoring tests, and other grading issues are brought to the same standards, allowing each district in multiple states to share these costs instead of forcing a state-by-state standard that would limit cost-sharing to in-state districts only.
4. It allows students with high mobility to receive a consistent education.
In the past, when students lived in families with high mobility, such as a military family, their education could be inconsistent due to the different standards in different states. For the states that have adopted Common Core standards, the studies of high mobility students match up better on a school-by-school basis, creating more consistency in the educational opportunities for them.
5. It covers multiple skills in one package.
Much of the focus on Common Core tends to involve mathematics, but multiple skills are covered by these standards. Many of the standards evaluate multiple skills within each question, allowing for a greater development in critical thinking and problem-solving. Reading, writing, and other key subjects are still required and evaluated.
6. Common Core allows for individualized educational opportunities.
Before Common Core, it was common for higher grades in the K-12 educational system to grade “on a curve.” This meant that students were compared to one another instead of being graded on their own individualized merits. Common Core standards make it possible for the teachers of a student to track their individualized progress throughout the year with greater detail, allowing for customized plans to be developed that can address any potential deficiencies right away.
7. It creates more definition within learning expectations.
Students who are in a Common Core program have a better understanding of what they are learning and why they are learning it. Although the method of creating this understanding may seem confusing, especially to those who were taught within a different system, it does create faster opportunities to achieve a true understanding of each skill. In terms of education, an understanding is a better achievement than rote memorization.
8. It has created a network of professional development for teachers and educators.
Teachers and educators are all essentially teaching the new curricula throughout the United States. This has led to a new network of collaboration and professional development that didn’t exist before. Some entrepreneurial teachers have even created business opportunities out of curricula development that others can implement in their classrooms.
9. Learning is now based on empirical methods.
In the past, it was simply good enough for a student to come up with the correct answer. A smart enough student could look up the answer from a different source, write it down, and get their grade. With information access at its highest levels in history, Common Core forces students to do more than find the correct answer. They must also be able to show how they arrived at their specific answer and then be able to appropriately defend it.
What Are the Cons of Common Core?
1. It forces teachers to focus on student performance and accountability.
Learning should be an individualized process, which is what Common Core attempts to address. The only problem is that it doesn’t address this from a teaching standpoint. Teachers are often graded on the test results their students are able to achieve. This grading can affect their salary, their placement within a school district, or even their employment and they have no control over which students they will have each year.
2. This causes teachers to teach for testing purposes.
Because teachers are forced to produce testing results, it takes them away from the time they’d spend creating educational results. Students using Common Core standards are often taught the skill of meeting the standard instead of being taught practical educational skills. This makes it seem like students are performing as they should when there really could be several educational deficits present.
3. It leaves students with special needs behind.
All students are tested under the same generalized standards under Common Core. This means a student with a specific learning disability or other special need is treated the same as a student who is in the district’s gifted and talented program. Although this provides a certain sense of equality between students, it also eliminates some of the individualization in testing that was present in prior educational standards.
4. Common Core has caused teachers and educators to retire.
The extensive changes to the educational system that Common Core caused drove many of the most experienced teachers and educators into retirement or a different career. This isn’t because of the changes to how certain reading or mathematics concepts are taught. It’s also because many of the state standards that have been implemented are very broad and vague.
5. Because of somewhat vague standards, some states have experienced educational declines.
Some states in the past had very rigid and high educational standards for their students. By adopting to the Common Core standards, they are forced to reduce the quality of their education in order to create more consistency on a national level. The goal of Common Core was to create an “average” between states, so those with low standards were raised, but at the expense of other states.
6. It has forced textbooks to update due to standards changes.
The price of textbooks is one of the highest costs that a school district faces. Common Core standards forced an almost complete update to a district’s textbooks because it changed how skills were taught. All materials and curricula had to meet the new standards, which meant almost every district had a large expense to convert to this new system.
7. Many of the assessments that are required in Common Core happen online.
This means school districts must have a certain level of technology incorporated into the classroom environment. The adoption of these standards forced some school districts to invest heavily into computers and other technologies that would allow students to access the internet just so they could be evaluated in their progress.
8. It has created an environment of high stakes testing.
Students can over-perform in the classroom, but under-perform on the testing standards and be considered an “inferior” student. Because each student is judged on their testing performance and not on their actual educational skills that are used every day, their placement into future classes, college majors, and even vocational opportunities could be at-risk if they aren’t good test takers. Because the standards have become more consistent state-by-state, this issue is only going to become worse as more information becomes available.
9. The results of Common Core are not showing fast progress.
Although the adoption of Common Core standards has been relatively quick, the outcomes being seen from this switch have not be as fast to arrive. Between parents who do not support these standards and teachers who may not wish to implement them, along with students who struggle to understand them, the expected results have not been as anticipated.
The pros and cons of Common Core show that there is a lot of potential with this idea. There are also many challenges that have been faced along the way that have kept many students, families, and school districts from achieving that full potential. With changes that allow for more individualization to achieve the set standards, Common Core could be the answer the US needs to keep pace with the rest of the world in terms of student performance.