What Are The Common Core Standards And What Are The Problems?

After an initial positive reception for the Common Core Standards for math and English language arts, parents and school districts began to roll up their sleeves to look at what was involved in instituting it and what problems would be encountered. However, all parties involved in implementing the Common Core standards quickly faced one problem after another, drastically dampening enthusiasm as complaints began to mount.

Since then, the deterioration of support for the Common Core standards has been accelerating. On December 30, NPR reported that many of the 45 states that first decided to implement the Common Core Standards are now talking about repealing it. Many people hear about Common Core, but not many know what it is. Simply put, the Common Core sets requirements in math and English stating what each child should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. It is rooted partially in the George Bush No Child Left Behind program that required state testing and reporting of the performance of its students, but still allowed states to make decisions on which standards to use. In this case, however, if a state had more stringent standards, it would look as though the state’s educational system’s standards and student performance were sub-par.

In 2009, the National Governor’s Association gathered a group together to develop the standards in part to address this. These included the Council of Chief State School Officers and the education reform group Achieve, the International Reading Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects were released on June 2, 2010. The Obama administration, through the Race to the Top competitive grants program announced on July 24, 2009, encouraged the adoption of the standards. States would be eligible for the grants if they adopted “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the work place.” States could adopt their own standards, but they were given extra points in their Race to the Top grant applications if the Common Core standards were adopted by August 2, 2010. Grant applications for 41 states ultimately included a commitment to adopt the standards to qualify for the grant.

The roll-out of the standards has not been without problems, though. In New York, the decision was made to not wait for the students to be exposed to the new Common Core material and to begin testing students last year. Teachers complained that they did not have the new teaching materials and textbooks, and the student had not been exposed to the new curriculum. New York required the student to take the tests anyway, and the results were catastrophic. Only 31 percent of the third through eighth grade students met the standards in language arts and math, causing an intense public uproar over the poor implementation of the standards.

Other problems began to occur. The homework assignments that are based on the new standards are more difficult for students who are new to the material and are confusing to parents. Parent assistance on homework is often required and indeed encouraged as a part of parental participation in their child’s education. However, both students and their parents have become frustrated in dealing with the new material, souring them even more on the Common Core program. Many parents, in an effort to escape the drama, regimentation and inadequacies of the Common Core, are turning to home schooling.

Many people see the Common Core standards as the federal government taking control of state education through programs like the Race to the Top as another problem. Financial incentives led states to adopt the program whether it was right for them or not before they had a reasonable opportunity to evaluate it.

Common Core is additionally treated as a one-size-fits-all program. It ignores the differences between individual students with their learning styles and abilities, as well as influences in their home lives that includes students living in poverty or family situations where learning is not their top priority. Teachers feel they must teach the intensive set of Common Core material “to the test” and have little additional time to address individual student needs and problems.

The many problems caused by the Common Core standards have provided additional fodder for political arguments. For the politicians who feel the need to continually snipe at the opposite party, infighting continues to detract from the greater issues and slows possible agreements on remedies to a crawl.

When all is said and done, what will come next if the Common Core Standards are repealed as is being widely called for in many states? The U.S. ranks 20th in reading in the world and 23rd in science and has been slipping over the years. America prides itself on technological leadership in the world and will need to institute some kind of definitive measures to improve its standing. The Common Core standards have problems and many feel it needs to be replaced, but careful thought will be required to find something better that will improve America’s standing in the world.

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