Understanding Common Core

It appears that I have touched on an hot topic when I posted my view of Common Core. Thank you for all who have shared and passed along my post.

Allow me to apologize for neglecting the fact that this is a world-wide site.  I apologize to those of you who are not familiar with Common Core.  In my previous post I mentioned that not all parents have been informed about what Common Core is or what it’s all about.   In my best attempt I wanted to take the opportunity to explain my view and understanding of Common Core.  While I have read up and been taught about Common Core, I am writing this as a parent and from a parent’s point of view.

If you want the official word on Common Core check out CoreStandards.org. The link will take you to “What Parent’s Should Know”.

Simply put and as the title suggests, Common Core is an attempt to bring schools across the country to a common ground. These “Core” standards put everyone on the same page about what they should know and what they should be learning in specific grades.

What this has done across the country has caused quite the controversy.  In some parts of the country students were advanced in Math and English.  So Common Core appeared to be “too easy.”  But the most prevalent concern that has been voiced is “this stuff is too hard for my kids!” The ultimate goal here is to get everyone on the same page at the same level.  This is a trying time for everyone because we all want to see our kids succeed.  All parents want their kids to succeed and no parent wants to watch their child struggle.

Another controversial part of Common Core is in order to know everyone is on the same page, there has to be a way to tell.  In this case, the chosen solution is to test everyone. The drawbacks to this causing outcry is that some kids just don’t do well on tests. So based on their scores they seem to be falling behind and Common Core appears to not be working.

As mentioned, I am pro Common Core. I am not saying it is a perfect system, and I am not saying it is without flaw.  As a parent, I hate seeing my children struggle. But as a parent I love the excitement my kids have shown when mastering skills.  I love when they come home and are excited about new skills or lessons they have learned.

Here is why I like it on a bigger scale.  The goal of Common Core is to get everyone on the same page across the county.  This is very very good news.  We live in Maryland, I have family in New Hampshire, New York, California, Maine, and Florida.  Currently we here in the Mid-Atlantic/North Eastern region of the United States are getting nailed with super cold weather.  This is making California and Florida look like great options to move to.

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So when we look at Common Core, it seems like a good idea. That way, should we pack up and move south, or west, I know that my kids will pick up in school at the same place they left off. This is a huge selling point as a parent. My kids won’t be missing out on anything and won’t walk into a classroom completely oblivious to what is going on.

Another point of contention heard from parents is, ‘This isn’t how/what I learned when I was a kid in school!”  That part is absolutely true.  But it is an important aspect of Common Core. Here is an example:

Growing up in New Hampshire I was a “Yankee” or a “Northerner”.  When we discussed the Civil War in school, our basic lesson was “We won, everyone else needs to get over it!”  After High School I moved south.  Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.  It was then that I began seeing the battlefields, the re-enactments, and the museums.  I remember thinking, “Man they take this stuff pretty seriously and hold quite a grudge.”

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But in this area (Maryland/Pennsylvania) schools spend a lot more time studying the Civil War.  We are within driving distance of Gettysburg Battlefield, one of the biggest battlefield and historically brilliant areas of the Civil War.  I imagine myself as a kid transferring from the North to the South, and showing up in school thinking, “We won, get over it.” I’m fairly certain I would fail that unit in class.

As previously mentioned, some of the advanced areas had to lower their standards, other schools had to raise their standards to meet Common Core standards.  As a parent, this is important to me.  Again using the example of moving from chilly Maryland, to warm sunny California.  Let’s talk about my 3rd grade daughter.  In this scenario we are moving in the middle of the school year….

Let’s say Maryland teaches multiplication tables at the end of 3rd grade. While California teaches it at the end of 2nd grade. (This is just an example scenario. Not sure if that’s the actual case)  My daughter would totally miss out on learning her multiplication tables!!!  With Common Core this would not be the case. My daughter would simply move with us and pick up where she left off.

These are scenarios that could occur with Common Core, but let’s talk about actual situations that are already occurring.  Parents are mad that the school work seems to be getting harder.  Not to mention the four page report cards are a little overwhelming!  But when we look closer, they are not that crazy and they are actually super helpful to us parents.

Common Core breaks down each subject into basic standards for certain parts of the school year.  So first report card period there might be 10 Math standards that should have been met.  My kid comes home with 10 grades just for math!!! This is nuts!!  But it actually isn’t that crazy. This helps me as a parent understand where my kid is having trouble.  You see, before Common Core we were simply told our kids got an A,B,C,D or F in math.  This doesn’t tell me what they know or don’t know.

With the new report cards, I can see that my daughter got an overall B in math. But now I can see she is struggling in division. She excels at basic addition and subtraction, but has trouble with division.  This allows me to help her out more with her homework.  I can now focus specifically on division.  So for the parents who say “This isn’t how we did it when I was in school.” You are absolutely correct. But this gives us an advantage.

I could go on and on about Common Core. I really am not trying to preach.  I believe there are downsides to Common Core as well.  I believe there has been inadequate training for teachers and even more so with parents.  Yes, I was able to find a link and send it to you, but you chose to read this article.  All parents should have been immediately given all of this information when the Country chose to go forward with Common Core.

I also agree that the testing can be a little bit much.  Not all kids perform well on tests and this can reflect poorly on whether or not they have met the standards.  Standardized testing always leaves some students out.

Are the standards too hard for the kids? I don’t believe so. I stand with my original argument that while I don’t enjoy seeing my kids struggle, I do love their excitement and enthusiasm for learning.  I like the idea that they are being better prepared for college and careers.

I like to look at it like when my kids play games. This summer we had them on soccer teams.  My kids are a bit clumsy and not that coordinated.  Needless to say, they were not star players, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to play. Now, I could have asked the coach to have the better players, play worse.  But that doesn’t make sense. Instead I asked the coach to pair my kids with the better players.  My kids were excited to learn from these other kids and their skills improved.   As is the basis of what I understand Common Core to be. To raise all students up.

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There is still some work to be done. But Common Core has good intentions.

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