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Breaking Down Common Core State Standards

The Common Core State Standards have caused controversy from parents to politicians.
The Common Core State Standards have caused controversy from parents to politicians.

Nearby, Oklahoma has dropped Common Core and Louisiana is in the process of doing so as well.

But what is it that's causing the push back against the standards?

First things first.

"In a nut shell, Common Core State Standards for math and literacy are simply statements of what students should know and be able to do when they finish a particular grade," Marcia Sanders, former teacher and Assistant Director at the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative said.

Seems simple, but this statement skews differently for some.

"It's not curriculum, it's not instructional strategies, it's not assessment, it is just a statement of what they should know and be able to do," Sanders said.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is working to get Common Core Standards out of classrooms in his state.

"I think there was some noble intentions to put rigor in the classrooms, we need that, but I think we can do it without a one-size fits all approach," Gov. Jindal said.

But are new standards for each state the answer?

Sanders said she finds it's hard to compete with the current core standards.

"The interesting part will be when they come up with their new standards, for the ones who already have, they look remarkably like the Common Core State Standards and they have spent millions of dollars to develop those," she said.

So let's break it down.

In math, where students use to learn short cuts to get the answer to a problem, teachers are now diving deeper into the arithmetic, which isn't what their parents were taught in school.

"When students don't have a deep understanding, they struggle in algebra, if we don't build those concepts from the ground up, the farther they go in math, the more lost they become and the more challenging it becomes," Sanders said.

The outcome, Sanders says, is more high-level, high-paying technology jobs going overseas.

In literacy, she said the focus is aimed at not just reading, but understanding.

"The goal is to produce citizens who can, whether it's reading fiction for their own pleasure, understanding their taxes, their insurance forms, whatever it is, to be able to read and critically analyze what they're reading and come to their own conclusions," she said.

One misconception Sanders finds among parents is how Common Core is implemented.

"There are a number of states like Louisiana that at one point thought this was going in a different direction and realized this is really the federal government coming into our schools," Gov. Jindal said.

But Sanders says the state and federal government do not provide the curriculum teachers follow to complete the core standards, the school districts do.

A study by the University of Arkansas shows when Common Core is implemented in states, if a district takes a "top-down" approach, telling teachers what curriculum they will use in the classroom, there's a lot of push back.

"A lot of folks pushing common core don't want to listen to the teachers, to the parents. Why don't we get a chance to comment on them, to look at them, to give our thoughts about them so why not slow down, get this right?" Gov. Jindal said.

According to the study, some districts are working with teachers and allowing them to craft their own lesson plans.

"In those districts the implementation has gone well and teachers were overwhelmingly supportive," Sanders said.

Both situations are "Common Core" but the approach made by the districts are different, and yielding different feelings.

Another reason for the standards change is to bridge the gap between all students, regardless of their socio-economic status.

"Research shows that children of middle class, a three year old of a middle class family, has a vocabulary equivalent or surpassing that of an adult in poverty," Sanders said.

The standards are designed to try to bridge that gap in the classroom.

So every student is exposed to the same level of material, challenging the "good school/bad school" stereotype.

But can this be achieved? That's to be determined.

"I think that it is, I know most teachers, the teachers I talk to feel like it is making a difference," Sanders said.

"Obviously every state, every parent are going to have to decide what is best for them but my advice is learn more about it for yourself," Gov. Jindal said.

To read the Common Core State Standards, click here.

To learn more about those opposed to the standards, click here.



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