Join the distinguished ‘corps’ of advocates supporting the Common Core!

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Some things are just common sense, and having common academic standards for all states is one of those things. In a national milestone event, 45 states and the District of Columbia recently coalesced around a common set of standards for math and English/language arts. The process did not happen overnight, and there were many detours and roadblocks along the way. Nevertheless, this year states began to implement the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and classrooms are beginning to change for the better.

Change is never easy. Although some resistance to the CCSS was expected, we are now seeing more organized efforts to block the implementation of the standards. Several groups are either misinformed or intentionally misleading the public about the process used to develop the standards, the organizations that initiated this effort and the standards themselves. In response, I would like to debunk several of these myths about the Common Core State Standards.

Myth No. 1:  The CCSS is a national curriculum.

Fact: The CCSS is NOT curriculum. It is a set of standards … a framework for teaching and learning. The curriculum - learning activities, lesson plans, teaching materials - will be developed by each state based on each state’s preference. Schools will base their teaching on the standards by selecting lessons and learning strategies that meet their individual needs while ensuring that students demonstrate an understanding of the standards. This approach will lead to more consistent quality of teaching, student learning and equitable accountability across all states.

Myth No. 2: The CCSS effort was started by the federal government in an attempt to force every state to teach the same concepts in exactly the same way. This is federal intrusion on states’ rights and parental rights.

Fact: The federal government did not start this effort. In fact, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the effort. Both organizations are nonpartisan and their members come from state agencies. The federal government was not involved at ANY level in the development of the standards. The states initiated the effort as a means to address the problem of inconsistency in what students were learning and when they were learning it. This inconsistency has become a serious problem in our mobile society in which families frequently move from one state to another. Since some states standards were weaker than others, learning expectations and outcomes varied from state to state.

Myth No. 3: States must sign on to the CCSS in order to get federal funding.

Fact: Federal grants do not require endorsement of the CCSS. The recent Race to the Top grants gave 40 points out of a possible 500 if states documented that they were implementing standards that were internationally benchmarked and would prepare students for college and career.

Myth No. 4: The standards are less rigorous than those we now have; they are mediocre and were created without input from teachers.

Fact: The CCSS were developed collaboratively with input from teachers, school administrators, university faculty and state curriculum leaders. The community at-large had several opportunities to provide input during comment periods when the draft standards were posted on the Web. The final draft was vetted by a committee of experts in the field. There is a growing list of local, state and national organizations that support the standards, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the College Board, the American Statistical Association, the U.S. Army and many more. A host of leading corporations have also signed a letter of support for the CCSS.

Myth No. 5: Students will be learning “fuzzy math” and offbeat methods for computation. They won’t take algebra until ninth grade, which leaves no time for advanced math courses required by universities.

Fact: The traditional math pathway in the United States requires students to take Algebra 1 in eighth or ninth grade, then geometry and then Algebra II. The United States is one of the only industrialized countries in the world that segments courses in this way. Other countries teach “math” by integrating algebra and geometry concepts throughout the middle and high school years. Since the CCSS are internationally benchmarked, algebra and geometry concepts are now integrated in the lower grades, especially grades six and seven.  Students will dive deeper into the concepts and have more opportunities to apply what they have learned. North Carolina and many other states are aligning with the rest of the world by calling the newly developed courses Math I, Math II and Math III. Since students may begin this sequence when they are ready, they will have the time they need to take more advanced math courses. This approach aligns with programs in other countries that currently surpass the US on international assessments.

Myth No. 6: Students will be reading more “informational texts” and will have less time to read classical literature.

Fact: Schools have a great deal of choice as to what students will read. CCSS focuses on reading for different purposes and comprehending texts with a wide range of complexity. Informational texts are included as only one part of a much larger body of literature. Teachers are provided with lists of books that include many of the classics traditionally included in text books. Each district has the freedom to consider these examples, but the list is not exhaustive and it is up to the districts to determine what they teach.

Myth No. 7: Our state standards are just fine. There is no reason to have shared standards.

Fact: Currently, states have no valid means to compare their performance with other states. According to the American Institutes for Research, the difference between standards in states with the most rigorous standards and those with the lowest standards can be as much as four grade levels. This is a serious problem that plagues our education system and limits our ability to compete internationally.  Once students are all taking the same assessments based on shared standards, it will eliminate the apparent inconsistencies of higher scores on state-authored tests. For example, NC students did almost 40 percent better on the state math test than they did on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). CCSS will pull back the curtain and tell us how we are really doing in comparison to other states and other countries. Reality and transparency are important steps to improving our education system.

Why this is important

The world economy is becoming much more connected and competitive. Our children deserve to be as prepared as other country’s children, so they can compete for well-paying jobs as adults. The United States is at a very critical moment in history. We must do all we can to ensure our schools are preparing our future generations to compete against the world’s best and brightest. CCSS is a major step in the right direction to help us accomplish this goal.

We can all do our community a service by spreading the facts about CCSS, rather than the rumors and misinformation currently circulating in blogs, email, Twitter and print media. Please join the “corps” of citizens who are supporting this effort to improve our education system. You can start by talking to your neighbor!

Become an advocate today by sharing these useful CCSS resources for parents, educators and businesses.

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About Author

Caroline McCullen

Caroline McCullen is the Director of Education Initiatives at SAS Institute. As a Former National Technology Teacher of the Year, she continues to pursue her greatest passions: supporting activities and organizations that inspire excellence in education and helping schools harness innovative uses of technology to engage students and improve instruction. Her most recent projects focus on science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She continues to work with the SAS Programming for High School course, the Triangle High Five Math Collaborative, and other activities related to excellence in math and technology. She serves on the advisory boards of numerous education organizations, such as the NC Science, Technology and Math Center; Public School Forum; NC Center for After-School Programs; the Governor’s Talent and Workforce Development Committee; and Wake Education Partnership. She holds a B.A. in English with a minor in education from Florida State University and a M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) with a focus on technology from Nova Southeastern University, but she continues to learn every day from teachers and students as they use technology to innovate.

12 Comments

  1. Dede Walton on

    Thank you Caroline for the clear explanations of the current myths regarding Common Core State Standards. I hope your blog goes viral and helps everyone have a clearer understanding of the current situation and how the CCSS can help our youth.

  2. Rachel Wright on

    Those thanking the writer for finally "clearing up the issue"...how much research have you done? I hope this isn't the first and last article you read on the issue. If you start digging you'll find her statements of "fact" are not true and I highly doubt she's "unbiased"

  3. Not sure this is "clarification" - I don't see any documentation to back up these claims. Some of the "myths" may not be myths after all. I suggest you do the research yourself if you really want to know. Be informed.

  4. Caroline McCullen
    Caroline McCullen on

    Based on the above requests for even more documentation, please take a moment to look at this valuable opinion piece from one of the architects of Common Core, Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware. He echoes many of my sentiments, and passionately defends the need for standards to keep our kids competitive in today’s job market. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-tea-party-is-wrong-on-the-common-core-curriculum/2013/06/09/b7c85ae4-ceba-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html
    As always, please continue to make comments in a way that does not violate our guidelines regarding respectful discourse. http://www.sas.com/Blogs.html A good discussion based on factual information is helpful to all. Thank you.

    • Since my previous comment, which included details that nullified each of your poorly defended myth-busting "facts" was apparently a violation of your guidelines regarding respectful discourse, I'll keep this comment brief and nice. Would you kindly review the department of Ed draft "Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance" http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/research/ ? I would greatly value your response to the proposals in this draft.

      • I have been teaching late elementary math and science for over 10 years. Having taught the Common Core Math standards for the first time this past year, I can say there is a lot more to it than what can be posted in one article or one blog.

        With respect to the Federally created report from the government website: http://www.ed.gov 'Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century' my overall impression was that the ideas presented sound like the things I learned growing up as a kid when I went out after school and played sports, hung out with friends, and did chores around the house (my parents even made me paint the entire basement ceiling by myself!).
        In school we learned Reading Writing and Arithmetic (the Core subjects).

        I will attempt to connect the report and Common Core State Standards (CCSM) to how I use them; setting aside the debate for a moment whether it is nationally recognized by states or federally created.

        Although the Common Core State Standards appear to be curriculum, they are just the objectives. As a teacher, I have to execute the curriculum given to me by our local school superintendent. The curriculum was created with the standards (CCSS) in mind. Standards say what kids should know at the end of each year in school. Sometimes (often) I need to modify or create additional lessons to meet the needs of my students - to show progress toward those standards.

        In practice I need to manage the emotional side of learning while maintaining the rigor of the lesson. Motivation, Perseverance, Tenacity, Grit are incorporated into the classroom atmosphere. School after all is an Academic and Social setting. I lead by example as a responsible adult. Do I teach it explicitly? Sometimes I do! Students learn about Thomas Edison, etc. For some kids, school is the only place where they hear about these things.

        We also have school wide programs - Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) where we emphasize what it means to be respectful, take ownership of actions, accept others differences and to be ready to learn.

        I can make a direct connection from the report noted above to the Common Core Standards. The CCSS includes a list of 10 Standards for Mathematical Practice. The first standard is to have students 'Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them'. http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice The third standard says we can utilize the social setting to get kids to learn by having them: "Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others." Kids love to talk and most kids are on task in a Cooperative/competitive activity.

        Read through the rest of the Practice standards. Using appropriate tools strategically (technology) is addressed- they are to be incorporated into the lessons taught in Math, Reading and Writing. By the way my school needs new computers to do this right.

        There is a lot to it, more than can be covered here.

        Is it necessary for a teacher to do all this? Should it be prescribed? As a teacher, I really do not have a choice, I use all that is necessary to get the kids to learn what needs to be learned Academically and Socially/emotionally. It is a human endeavor. If you ask any experienced teacher, they will tell you the same.

        Do we need to have a Federal standard for what it means to have Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance? That is a baited question and I can hear the controversy now. However, it is an interesting report that should educate everyone that can read it or experience it.

  5. In a recent editorial, it was implied that Common Core represents those "standards needed to compete for future jobs." Is there a report or other information factually documenting this linkage specifically for STEM? Is this document available?

  6. Caroline McCullen
    Caroline McCullen on

    Thank you for your thoughtful question, Bob. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) actually draw on a previous effort led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors’ Association (NGA). The goal of this initiative was to define standards that would allow adult students to be successful in career or college. The final result was the College and Career Ready (CCR) Standards, which were released in in 2009. You will find more information about the CCR here http://lincs.ed.gov/professional-development/resource-collections/profile-521. For an explanation of how the CCSS built on the CCR and included them in our current standards, go here: http://www.corestandards.org/ela-literacy .

  7. Anthony Bruno on

    Caroline,
    I attended the CC CliftNote on May 21st to listen to the reasons for continuing implementation and not surprised an opposing position received equal time. I knew this was not the purpose of the event.

    For two years I have studied CC, from the manner it was created, promoted and implemented.
    From what I learned I have serious concerns as CC was not untested, dismissive of key concerns from members of its own Validation Committee, coercion used to get states to adopt ( withholding of Federal funds), and lose of state control over what can be deleted from the standard, the tests provided by the CCSSO, muzzling of teachers from publicly speaking out against CC are but a few of the concerns everyone should know about..

    Last, I must ask, did you speak at the public hearing on Common Core? If you did you might recall I asked you is CC is being implemented at Cary Academy? You responded it was still being evaluated. I did not press for a reason, but believe one should be offered as Jim Goodnight is such a strong supporter of CC in public schools.

    I hope our paths cross again.
    Regards,
    Anthony Bruno

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