Does Common Core help children learn better than traditional methods?


Fact Box

  • In April of 2019, the Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning released a study examining the NAEP test results from states that had adopted Common Core standards. Remarkably, there was a modest decline in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math scores [1].
  • A California Alliance of Researchers for Equity in Education research brief concluded that high-stakes testing in conjunction with the imposed standards of Common Core “deprofessionalizes teaching and narrows the curriculum, but in so doing, also reduces the quality of education and student learning, engagement, and success.” [2] 
  • Research published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that reading ability doesn’t have as much impact on story comprehension as a proficient knowledge base does. [3]
  • A 2015 Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools revealed that 54% of respondents opposed the use of Common Core standards by local teachers. [4]
  • The standards are aligned with college and workplace expectations, and they are internationally benchmarked, meaning they are comparable to standards across the globe [5].
  • “Common Core Math” is not a real thing. The Common Core standards provide educators with needed structure to teach math, but it does not require any changes to the approach or methods used to teach math. It does, however, encourage the use of new methods that are evidence-based through researched practices [6].

Tina (Yes it does)

Change is hard, especially when that change is as sweeping as implementing new educational standards. But in 2009, the Common Core State Standards were initiated through a joint effort from educators, state-level education commissioners, and governors [1].

In response to scrutiny at the international level stemming from decades of the U.S. not measuring up to other nations (both academically and in the workplace), this group was tasked with drafting a set of guidelines that would put the U.S. back on the map, so to speak. In order to achieve this, state school officials and governors understood that the nation’s educational system had to unify its expectations if they wanted students to graduate high school with the tools and knowledge they needed to be prepared for college, the workforce, or simply life [2].

Traditionally, students were presented with hundreds of skills that they had very little time to master before moving on to the next skill [3]. Over time, this resulted in a multitude of employees who were not ready for the workplace, scores of students who needed remedial classes before taking their first college course, and adults who were finding life difficult and overwhelming [4]. The Common Core standards provide a different approach. They focus on developing higher-level thinking skills, versus rote memorization, and, in turn, this leads to improved problem-solving skills and better reasoning [5]. Over time, these standards will allow high school graduates the skills they need to be career and college ready with 21st-century skills.

Elaine (No it doesn't)

The task of standardizing the knowledge that an entire nation’s youth must learn is not an easy one. And although noble in theory, the adaptation of Common Core standards has presented numerous challenges not only to students, but also to parents and teachers. 

Common Core standards were first developed as a means to address American students’ achievement gaps when compared to their international peers [1]. However, instead of providing a nation-wide structure to the already existing curriculum, Common Core innovators chose to implement high-stakes testing coupled with rigorous standards—an approach that has not proven to affect the positive change that was intended. One study has even shown test scores have declined [2]. 

The standards, which pertain to math and English language arts, present unique problems. Some educators feel that there is too much emphasis on skill development and not enough emphasis on knowledge acquisition [3]. In reading, students are taught techniques and approaches, but not necessarily the knowledge and vocabulary that will help them succeed in college and in life. Researchers have proven that weak readers who have expertise in a given subject perform as well as strong readers [4]. Yet, Common Core places importance on methodology. 

Perhaps the strongest opposition to Common Core has been from the parents who have dutifully tried to help their children with their math homework each night. Having to learn brand-new systems in order to do simple equations, parents have become increasingly frustrated [5]. This frustration has certainly trickled down to their children, having unforeseen effects on their learning [6]. Standardizing what our kids are learning makes sense, but Common Core does not.   

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