The Crux of the Core

With the summer holidays slowly drawing to an end and the school year starting soon, the schools, teachers, kids and parents are getting ready for changes in the curriculum brought about by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). CCSS are set of standards developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) along with teachers and experts from across the country. Here is a look at the Common Core Standards – Claims and Responses.

Claim : Federal Government is not involved in the CCSS initiative. CCSS is not a part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory.

Response : Federal Government included participation in the CCSS as an eligibility criterion for many of the programs created out of the $110 billion stimulus funds. Programs such as Race to the Top rewarded states that participated in developing the Common Core and those that adopted the CCSS. There are federal waivers to penalties for failing NCLB to those states that have adopted CCSS.

Claim : Common Core is not a national curriculum and is a clear set of goals and expectations. The states and the teachers retain control over the classroom as they can develop their curricula and all other instructional resources they seem appropriate.

Response : The standards are benchmarks that guide and direct the curricula. They guide classroom teaching and testing. Though teachers can still choose curricula, since content is already determined (except for 15%, which the states can add), the freedom to choose, create and guide education is significantly restricted. Moreover, since any material that a state adds is not likely to be included in the assessments of the students,  the teachers and students may not use the material.

Claim : 46 states have already adopted CCSS because they were better than existing standards in most states.

Response : Cash-starved states under recession adopted CCSS to be eligible to compete for federal funding for education. Some states are in the process of withdrawing from the CCSS.

There are many claims and responses to the CCSS. The main concern about CCSS is the cost. How significant is the cost of implementing CCSS (which includes cost of textbooks, materials, professional development, technology infrastructure and assessment) over the cost of revisions and implementation of the ongoing state standards depends on how closely the existing curricula of the state aligns with the CCSS and the state’s technology infrastructure.

While there are no official CCSS for preschool education, many states are expanding the standards downward with the help of the preschool and early-childhood educators, carefully balancing the common standards with the developmental needs of the children. U.S. Department of Education supports the idea that college and career readiness has to start even before a child enters kindergarten. The federal Head Start preschool program for disadvantaged children has also aligned its Child Development and Early Learning Framework with the common core.

If CCSS is what it claims to do – preparing students for a global economy, provide a national standard for improving teaching, learning and  progress as a society, shouldn’t it be given a chance?

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