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Examining the Common Core: Myths vs. facts

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 2015 16:03 PM

Although the Common Core State Standards provide many benefits to the U.S. educational system, some people are skeptical of the advantages. A lot of this anxiety originates because people don't understand exactly what the Common Core entails or why guidelines have been changed. First, requirements have been adjusted because previously, most states had different sets of education standards, with some state requirements really difficult and others rather lax. The Standards help close this gap by providing states with national expectations so all students can receive equal educations. The clear goals laid out by the Standards help inform teachers what students should be able to achieve at the end of each grade. This is beneficial for education systems across the country, but some people are reluctant to support Common Core because of frequent misconceptions.

Four of the most common misconceptions can be resolved by reviewing the facts alongside the myths:

Myth: Teachers are no longer allowed to teach classic literature and fiction.
Fact: The CCSS says that for grades K-5, informational and literary texts will be split 50-50, but for grades 6-12 that amount changes with only 30 percent of literary texts being taught and the other 70 percent informational. This change has left many parents and teachers concerned that classical fiction stories are not getting enough attention. What most people don't realize when looking at these numbers is that they don't just apply to English/language arts courses. What the Standards are actually saying is that a lot of the informational reading is done in other courses, like science and social studies. Yes, English classes still have to implement a little more nonfiction work into their readings, but they still have plenty of fictional material to choose from.

Myth: Common Core is a federal takeover of education.
Fact: It is not federally mandated for states to adopt the Common Core as their state standards. The CCSS were actually a state-led effort and were created by education leaders and instructors. Educators across many states recognized a need for real-world and consistent learning goals, so they decided to develop the new State Standards. Saylor Academy notes this misconception may have originated from Race to the Top grant applications. To qualify for this grant, states are required to adopt the Common Core or equivalent standards.

Myth: Teachers are told what to teach and what curricula to follow.
Fact: As noted by the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the Standards are not a national curriculum. Instead the new Standards give school districts and educators an idea of what material they need be teaching to reach grade-specific goals. Teachers are also not given any rules for how these principles need to be taught. They are still allowed to choose their own lesson plans and discuss with school administrators what curricula to use. Granted, the curriculum must now be sure to line up with the State Standards, but educators still have freedom to determine which materials and lessons to use. 

Myth: The CCSS testing is too difficult for students.
Fact: According to the Foundation of Excellence in Education, a study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress discovered that no U.S. state reading proficiency standards were as rigorous as internationally benchmarked NAEP fourth grade exams. In fact, many states displayed reading proficiency standards that qualified students as functionally illiterate on NAEP. People may think that the lessons and exams are too difficult, but, in reality, they were simply made to match those of international peers. It's okay to challenge students and it's what the education system should be doing. Students need to be prepared for the future and the new Standards are designed to give them the education and skills they need to succeed in college and their eventual careers.