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What makes the CCSS vital to the future of education?

THURSDAY, JANUARY 31, 2013 08:29 AM

By now, parents, educators and members of the general public in 45 states and the District of Columbia know that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are currently being implemented. Some are opposed to them, and others think they are long overdue.

As there are still many people who do not fully understand the need for the CCSS, or what impact they will have on the American education system, here are the answers to these questions from a few education experts:

A step toward a better education system
While the quality of instruction offered at schools differs from one institution to another, there is no denying that the American education system could be better. For example, Education Week recently gave the country as a whole an average grade of 76.9, or a C+. Surely, this is a grade that does not leave many teachers feeling proud.

However, just because the U.S. received a C+ in 2013 does not mean it cannot boost its score in the years ahead. James Campbell, a former member of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and the current senior communications manager at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, is among those who believe that the CCSS can help American schools do a better job of educating today's youth.

In an article for The Baltimore Sun, Campbell wrote that the CCSS will better prepare students for college and the workforce, while also ensuring that high school graduates can help the U.S. compete in the global economy. However, whatever benefits arise from the Common Core will only be possible if schools are able to fund their implementation. This is especially vital in low-income communities, where the Standards could make a large impact.

"If the nation is serious about upgrading our curriculum to compete on the world stage, we must find the dollars to make it work," Campbell wrote.

A way of transforming instruction
Under the CCSS, instruction will receive a makeover, which is essential if the American education system is to improve. Rather than trying to cram as much material into the academic year as possible, schools in states that have adopted the Standards will instead spend more time on fewer subjects.

For instance, when it comes to mathematics, students will take a deeper look at new concepts so they fully understand them, rather than just memorizing a few facts and moving on to something else. Teachers understand that transitioning to CCSS-aligned curricula will not be easy, but it is still worth the effort.

"It's going to change what we teach … how we teach and what materials we use to teach … how we decide who's ready to graduate from high school and … who gets into college, and how we prepare teachers," Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit education policy think tank, told U.S. News & World Report. "It's a very heavy lift, and it's well worth lifting."

Keeping education consistent
In the past, a fifth-grader in a California classroom could be learning something completely different than a student attending fifth grade in Maine. Under the CCSS, this will not be as much of an issue, as the Standards will see to it that all pupils in grades K-12 are learning at the same pace.

For teachers, this means there will be more opportunities for collaboration nationwide - which may improve the quality of instruction being delivered.

"I could talk to a [teacher] across the nation and say ... 'This is what I'm grappling with; what are you doing?'" Monica Sims, a teaching fellow at the nonprofit group America Achieves, told the news source. "I believe that this is definitely something that everyone has to take a different approach to, but it's totally doable."