Sixth-grader Isaac Waters works on computers in class last week. The district is currently in the process of transitioning to electronic tests and adding Common Core standards for science and social studies.

Photo by John F. Russell

Sixth-grader Isaac Waters works on computers in class last week. The district is currently in the process of transitioning to electronic tests and adding Common Core standards for science and social studies.

3 issues with Common Core

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A “top-down” approach to education

While the standards do stem from two national organizations — the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — they do not come from the federal government. Each state adopting the standards is required to create its own standards based on those provided by the NGA and CCSSO.

Colorado’s standards were developed in 2009 by subcommittees appointed by the CDE. The subcommittees largely were made up of state leaders in education and business.

While critics of Common Core argue there was not enough input from local teachers, parents and school boards, supporters of Common Core insist it is up to those local teachers, parents and school boards to be proactive in shaping assessment standards.

Perhaps the biggest argument for the “top-down” theory is that the federal government requires states to adopt Common Core standards before they can compete for Race to the Top grant money. Race to the Top gives money ($4 billion since 2009) to districts for adopting federal standards and assessments and successfully showing success and growth through assessment results.

Teaching to the test

Common Core opponents argue teachers will focus on the standards while teaching and creating classroom lessons and no longer will have the flexibility and creativity to create their own lesson plans and curriculum.

Supporters argue the standards provide an end goal of gained knowledge but do not provide a set way for students to get to that achievement. Additionally, standards are a part of the “whole of education” — not the entirety of education. The way the teacher decides to teach a student the various concepts found in the standards is up to the teacher. All of the standards can be found by visiting www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards.

Level of math standards

Another concern for critics revolves around the math standards, which do not reach Algebra concepts until high school and end at Algebra II.

Critics of Common Core are concerned the standards do not prepare students adequately for certain careers and college readiness — especially students seeking professions or college degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.

Common Core supporters maintain the standards are just that ­— standards.

Steamboat Springs School District Curriculum Director Marty Lamansky said the standards set a “base level” and district curriculum exceeds those base standards.

Still, opponents maintain not all districts and teachers will educate past those base standards, and the standards are not adequate when comparing math standards in the United States to other top performing countries.

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