Common Core curriculum has teachers bracing for change
California schools are getting close to fully implementing Common Core -
But polls show nearly three in four Californians are still wondering – what is the Common Core?
“We’re shifting to a new set of standards,” explains Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-
The standards are national, but were not developed by the federal government. They were created by a team of education experts, including those knowledgeable in other countries’ education systems, that were brought together by the National Governors’ Association.
They were really looking to see what’s the standard we need to achieve,” says Ramanathan.
The new standards emphasize critical thinking and deep understanding of key ideas, skills students will be required to demonstrate verbally and in writing, both in class and in standardized tests. California’s old curriculum guidelines “were called a mile wide and an inch deep,” Ramanathan told reporters Tuesday on a telebriefing organized by New America Media. A former teacher, he says that the Common Core brings with it “a reduction in the sheer number of standards” that will allow teachers to have “the ability to address the needs of students who are falling behind, but also the students are excelling.”
Iris Taylor, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Sacramento City Unified School District, agrees. Since 2010, Taylor has helped lead efforts to implement the new standards in her district. She says that the Common Core encourages educators to “go deeper into a few standards as opposed to trying to cover a multitude of standards.”
The new areas of emphasis, she says, will result in “college and career readiness for all students, not just a select few.”
In math, the Common Core will reduce the amount of content and the number of topics being covered in favor of students gaining a deeper understanding of fewer key concepts and being able to “use the language of mathematics to describe their thinking,” says Taylor.
UC Santa Cruz mathematics education professor Judit Moschkovitch agrees that in math, the Common Core represents “a shift toward balancing understanding and calculation.” Moschkovitch says that students will be expected to communicate verbally about math with each other and their teachers during math class, which will support both understanding and remembering math concepts.
In language arts and literacy, the Common Core will bring with it a greater emphasis on non-
Ramanathan believes that the implementation of the Common Core is “critical to the success of California students across the board,” and that it can particularly benefit English language learners. One-
Critics of the Common Core worry that some teachers may not be prepared to teach to the new standards, widening the achievement gap that already exists in California.
Moschkovich notes that the success of the new standards will depend on schools and students having access to “high quality materials” and “qualified teachers.”
As for measuring the success of Common Core, Ramanathan says that “will be dependent on getting a far higher percentage of students in public school into and through two-