Advancement or Digression – Session 4: Approaches to Curriculum

There is no doubt in my mind that the topic of Common Core standards and curriculum have come up at many a teacher staff meeting, dinner table conversation, and various college classrooms.  With this topic being such a hot-button issue, it is important to ask ourselves the following questions: What exactly is the Common Core and whether or not we agree with it.

According to, “The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA).” The main purpose of the Common Core is to set learning goal for what students should be able to know and accomplish after completing each grade level. The hope is that by the time students graduate high school they will be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in college and later in life.

Sounds simple enough and perhaps there is some merit to the idea. After all, how could setting up a system to equip all students with the skills necessary to succeed in life be a bad thing? There are many teachers and critics that echo this exact sentiment – Common Core it the way to go.  Tim Walker’s NEAToday article, “10 Things You Should Know About the Common Core,” emphasizes that the “Common Core is a set of voluntary K-12 standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics” and allows teachers flexibility when it comes to creating lesson plans. According to Walker, under the Common Core, teachers are able to implement creative lesson plans as the Common Core provides guidance but does not dictate material. Walker also points out that under the Common Core, teachers have the opportunity to extend the their curricula across multiple courses and the schools and teachers are responsible for determining how best to help students meet the standards.

The above arguments all sound well and good, but opponents of the Common Core are quick to make their voices heard as well.  According to Allie Bidwell’s USNews article “Common Core, College Cost and Quality Among Education Issues to Watch in 2014,” while many state, as in Walker’s article, that the Common Core is state-led, “Others claim the standards are state-led in name only, and that support from the federal government – such as financial incentives through Race to the Top grants – pressured many of the 45 states and the District of Columbia to adopt the standards.” Critics have also stated concerns that the Common Core is an echo of the “one size fits all” approach of No Child Left Behind and that insistence on the Common Core and implantation of standard-aligned assessments will only serve to perpetuate the culture of over-testing in the US.

There is no doubt that both sides have compelling arguments, but as futures teachers, future parents, and current students, it is essential to figure out where we stand on the issue of Common Core and not just go with the flow of standardization. Personally, I am not an advocate for the Common Core.  While the Common Core is marketed as a voluntary state run system of standards, it is not exactly voluntary when the government is bribing states with financial grants in order to persuade them to adopt the Common Core. Not only does the adaptation of the Common Core call for higher standards, it also calls for further teacher education that many schools and institutions cannot afford.  With teachers being evaluated on the basis of their students academic success, hight standards will prove to be detrimental to teacher evaluation. By raising the standards and making course work more rigorous, students will inevitably score lower on standardized exams and thus the US will continue to drop in ratings on the global education scale. In turn, the worse the students perform, the greater the risk that teachers will lose their jobs due to poor student performance. Also, despite the fact that the Common Core is marketed as being a system of guidelines that allow teachers to decide the material they will teach, the Common Core has a very specific focus and goal, thus the so-called guidelines are likely to be even stricter than current educational guidelines which effective take away a teacher’s ability to choose their own course material.

Basically what it all come down to is this: while presented as a means of advancing student success not only in school and in life but on a global scale as well, the Common Core is more detrimental than it is beneficial because not only will higher standards result in lower academic performance, but it also strips teachers of job security and a sort of creative freedom surrounding their curriculum.

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