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Teaching the Common Core may look different
MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2014 12:22 PM

The Common Core State Standards are not a curriculum. Rather, they are a series of benchmarks that guide students through their education. States that have implemented the Standards also used aligned curricula, but all in all, the Common Core is meant to serve as more of a guide than instructions. As such, the Standards themselves do not dictate how educators teach their students - teachers can still come up with creative lesson plans to teach Common Core goals. However, the educational changes have seemed to impact classrooms, and that may not be a bad thing.

Changing the benchmarks
The Common Core has shifted key elements about education in math and English/language arts, mainly in difficulty and focus. For instance, old math standards followed an "inch deep and mile wide" principle in which students learned a little bit about a lot of content. The Common Core has inverted that format to give students a "mile deep and inch wide" look at math. Basically, students look at fewer math topics over all, but they learn a great deal about those subjects. Furthermore, the Standards note that students should learn why formulas in math work and not that just they do. 

In English, students will read more nonfiction texts than they did in the past. In fact, by the time students reach high school, they'll read 30 percent literature and 70 percent nonfiction. They are also required to analyze texts using the information the reading presents. Formerly, students might read about a train ride and write about their own experience on a locomotive. Instead of relating reading to their personal experiences, students might answer questions like "How did Timmy feel about riding in the train, and what quotes led you to believe that?"

Inherent differences
Because the Common Core has altered math and English education to focus more on critical thinking, analysis and depth, the way teachers educate must naturally follow. Some educators have fought against the changes, arguing that benchmarks shouldn't influence their teaching decisions. However, updating teaching strategies may not be a bad thing. The Common Core calls for a greater focus on text and deep thought, so old instructional methods may not work. For instance, teachers have to come up with new questions to ask students that align with Common Core goals, questions that cause students to think critically. That kind of change only improves students' ability to reason

"The Common Core is silent about how to teach," Phil Daro, a lead writer of the math Standards, told Education World. "When we wrote the standards we were prohibited from addressing how to teach, that's not what standards are supposed to do." 

Although the Common Core doesn't tell teachers how to educate, it does influence the techniques teachers choose to implement, and that may mean a more challenging education.