After the last presidential election, I faced an abysmal realization. I recently graduated high school, but I still didn’t understand what Common Core was. Despite being up to date on gun laws, welfare and other hot button issues, I found out that I didn’t know much about our nation’s public school systems—even though I attended one for 13 years. All I knew was Common Core was the reason I had to read Romeo and Juliet and took a million exams at the end of April. As a burgeoning political activist, I realized this had to change.
If I wanted to get more involved in the education system, I had to educate myself.
What is Common Core?
According to the government’s informational website, Common Core is a set of high quality academic standards in math and English. The curriculum is designed to graduate students with the skills needed in order to succeed in college, career and life, regardless of what state they live in. But those are some big promises.
The standards themselves aren’t broad enough to allow individual teachers the ability to implement the curriculum creatively, which in practice, leads to students being taught cookie cutter lessons. Since the standards were first launched in 2009, 42 states have ratified them. This means that a lot of diverse students are being taught in the exact same way—and that’s where the problems begin.
Why Doesn’t Common Core Work?
1. Common Core Teaches to a Test
Nation-wide, straightforward standards come straightforward testing. Many students dread April because it’s “testing month.” And after a whole year of practice tests, sitting in a quiet room where you can’t even get up to go to the bathroom becomes monotonous. Students learn “test taking strategies” instead of actually being proficient in the material. In some cases, the material is so convoluted that test taking strategies are the only way to succeed.
2. Common Core is Stagnant
Millennials quite literally have the world at our fingertips—and yet our educational standards force them to reach even further to learn lessons deemed essential to their futures. Common Core shows students that two subjects—math and English—are the only ones that matter, and that there’s only one way to master them. Even though there has been evidence that students learn in more than way.
3. Common Core Doesn’t Prepare Students for Life After High School
It’s unrealistic to think that these standards could cover everything a well-rounded student should know (science and languages are important, people!). According to a report issued by ACT INC., the standards have huge gaps in the area of writing. While Common Core emphasizes analysis and summarization, college professors suggest that they’d rather see students creating their own sound arguments instead. Common Core rewards students who think in black and white. But colleges look for students to think in color and show individuality in their thinking process. Universities across the country want the next generation of adults to formulate their own ideas and arguments instead of simply dissecting someone else’s.
How Can We Change Common Core?
Do we continue enforcing Common Core and pushing educators to teach to a test that’s set by these restrictive ideas? Does learning one way to solve a problem and pass a test promote innovation and ingenuity? Or do we allow teachers to supplement their student’s education extra material to their already packed lesson plans in the process? Seminole High School Principal Thomas Brittain believes that Common Core has nothing to do with students being unprepared for college. He believes the root cause lies in the setup of public schools. “I believe our students have the knowledge they need [to succeed],” Brittain said. “But they need more social and emotional learning as they go into settings were communication and coloration are critical.” He suggests engaging students in the real world by means of project-based learning and internships can better prepare students for the rigor of secondary education—more than standardized test proficiency ever could. Perhaps the issue isn’t with what we teach, but how we teach it.
Maybe Common Core isn’t the problem.
There will always be controversy surrounding what we teach our students. It’s how we do it that can really make a difference.