Common Core Haters, This is Why You’re Wrong

I’m an educator with a decade of experience working with all types of students — from inner city, impoverished kids to those from wealthy Silicon Valley. I have read the Common Core Standards. And I absolutely love them. I’ve been shocked by the number of parents and teachers who have said negative things about the new standards. I asked myself, are we reading the same document? And what I’ve found is, no — many aren’t reading the standards at all; they’re reading ABOUT them. And like so many things, the Common Core Standards are being misrepresented, often out of fear, misunderstanding and political motive.

Before you bombast them, I suggest you read the standards — there’s a great iPad app available. You can also read about them at http://www.corestandards.org.

Just to be clear, though, this is why they’re so amazing:

1. They teach kids to THINK critically.

Common Core has been designed to teach students to think critically and understand concepts, NOT just spout out the right answer. I can teach a parrot to tell me the correct answer, but that doesn’t mean the bird has any idea what he’s saying.

Far too often in the classroom, I would encounter elementary students who could spout off their times tables or solve a multiple-digit subtraction problem using the algorithm. But when I asked them WHY their answer was correct, they’d look at me dumb-founded. They couldn’t explain what borrowing was — it was just a magic trick that got them the right answer. They couldn’t explain why 6 x 6 was 36. It just was.

Why is that a problem? For three reasons: first, if they make a small error in their magic trick, they don’t realize it. If they spout that 6 x 6 is 46, they have no reason to doubt their answer because it makes just as much sense to them as any other rhyming number. Second, students need to understand HOW something works in order to build upon those skills at higher levels. Why do so many students struggle with algebra and trigonometry? Because they never really understood subtraction or multiplication. Third, these magic “right answers” have no application in the real world. When have you ever been in the grocery store and seen the problem “6 x 6”? What you see is six frozen dinners, each costing $6, and you need to figure out if you have the money to pay for them. So many students struggle with story problems because they don’t understand that those times tables they memorized actually represent multiple groups of objects. We shouldn’t have to each kids “code” words so they figure out what math operation a test question wants them to do. Instead, we should start kids off with story problems and have them come up with their own solutions that make sense to them (like repeated addition or tally marks or number lines). Then, we’re able to build students up to the algorithm as an important, efficient step. But it’s a step students shouldn’t take until they understand WHY it works.

2. They teach fewer concepts more deeply.

The Common Core Standards are designed to help students fully understand concepts that are integral for their future success. Past standards were a bit haphazard and had students learning a mile wide and an inch deep. As a teacher, in each subject, I would have to cover at least one standard per day to hit them all. If a student didn’t get it or was absent, too bad.

The Common Core, however, expects deeper understanding of more difficult concepts. It also builds upon concepts, so students can see how all their learning is connected, rather than seeing their curriculum as a series of random concepts.

3. They prepare students for the 21st century.

Throughout the Common Core reading and writing standards, students are expected to produce writing pieces online, to create multi-media to accompany their presentations and to collaborate with peers online. Students will be assessed using computer-based tests, where they will have to type entire paragraphs starting in third grade.

These are skills that, first off, help students learn. But also prepare students for a technology-focused world. A world where viral videos are one of the best ways to have your message heard, a world where people from three different countries collaborate to analyze their data and create a report.

4. They’re research-based and designed by education experts.

We know how kids learn best. We know what skills will help students succeed in future careers. We know what’s developmentally appropriate for students to know at their age. We have research to back this up. Not conjecture.

EDIT: I’ve been asked, rightly so, to cite some of this research. “Helping Children Learn Mathematics” and “A Research Companion to the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics” offer some insight into the changes in math expectations. “How People Learn” also supports much of what we see in CCSS, as compared to earlier standards.

Education, more than most professions, is one that’s critiqued constantly by people who don’t have any background in the field. Would any taxpayer feel comfortable telling a surgeon how to transplant a heart? No. But because we all went to elementary school, we all feel we know what should be taught there.

The fact is, though, we don’t. We aren’t all experts in this field. We might have ideas about what worked for us, personally, but every student learns differently. And there’s data to tell us what works best for most kids. Let’s be smart and listen to the experts who have spent years analyzing that data.

WARNING: They’re hard. (And that’s a good thing.)

Kids will complain. It’s hard to think critically. It’s much easier to just memorize stuff, spout it out on the test and move on. Teachers will complain. It is MUCH more difficult to teach students to think critically. It’s not traditional drill-and-kill teaching. Teachers need to understand more difficult concepts in order prepare students to learn them in later grades. And they need to be creative in how they teach (this is the fun part!).

Test scores are going to drop dramatically. Expect it. But that’s okay — we’ve been asking kids to run a block for the past decade, and we’ve been cheering when they finished in under a minute. Now, we’re asking them to complete a mile-long obstacle course. They’re going to take more time. It’s not because they’re dumber or because the new standards are terrible. It’s because we have been expecting them to do far too little for far too long. Now, we’ll have a clearer picture of what they’re capable of and how we can help them become successful in the long-term.

I think we can all agree that our current education system is failing a lot of students. Just look at American students’ scores compared to those of the global market. Our expectations need to be higher. Our tests need to be tougher. This is how we improve our education system. Our kids aren’t just going to suddenly be brilliant. We all (teachers, kids, parents) have to put in the work to make it so. And the Common Core provides us with a great map to get there.

Katy Scott

I spent 5 years teaching in low-income districts in Phoenix, where most of my students were English-language learners. There, I taught 3rd- and 4th-grade self-contained classes, as well as 7th-grade resource. I spent a year teaching 5th- and 6th-grade science in an inner-city KIPP school in New Orleans. I did double-duty as a technology integration specialist for the last four years of my teaching career. I am now the Digital Learning Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where I work to help PreK-12 teachers and students utilize technology to better understand science. I'm a maker, a snorkeler, and a certified Google Education Trainer.

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24 Responses

  1. Pierce Presley says:

    You nailed it and stuck the landing.

  2. Michelle W. says:

    I must respectfully disagree with this article. My son is doing well in school even with CC but I see the work he is doing. It is crazy what he brings home sometimes. The math sheets are just plain incomprehensible. His teacher is constantly doing assessments that she has hardly any time to teach (under CC). I totally agree that American standards are horrible but the bar shouldn’t be set so incredibly high that we set our children up for failure. I do not think CC is the answer.

    • Katy Scott says:

      I agree that CCSS means that some of the ways we teach students (especially in math) will change, and that can be difficult when parents aren’t able to help their kids with homework. It’s so important for schools to offer parent nights to explain these changes and support parents, so they can better support students. I think this blog entry does a fairly decent job of explaining why these new worksheets are helping our kids, in the end: http://relearningtoteach.blogspot.com/2014/03/ccbs.html?spref=tw

  3. Suzanne says:

    So many incorrect statements here.. These kids are the research, there are no studies showing how these standards will raise education levels. They’re research-based and designed by education experts. I don’t believe any educational expert would advise much that we are currently seeing. I have 3 decades of children in the public school system, and I know a train wreck when I see one coming. These methods are not new, they are recycled previously failed methods. Not buying it for a second…oh wait, I guess my tax money is paying for this junk, so I did buy it sight unseen! Without federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind, it might be possible to teach children more than this floor which they should not fall below….Test scores mean nothing at all, they are in the developmental/pilot phase and will simply be changed next year to show whatever results they want us to believe!

  4. Michelle E says:

    I have to agree yes our education system is a big time failure and it has made it to easy on our kids, but this CC is NOT and nor will EVER be the answer. When I have a straight A student that is now failing because of CC some thing is NOT right. I disagree with CC, it needs to be removed from all class rooms and go back to teaching the other way.

  5. Angela says:

    Could you please provide me the information on the research that was done on the Standard BEFORE they were adopted by the Governors of each state (and done so before the standards were even written). I would like to see the actually research that states that these standards are actually better than what we had here in CA before. Oh and if it would be convenient to you, please make sure that study or research was not funded by Bill Gates. Thanks!

    Also there are plenty of educators that are speaking out against how horrible the CCSS are. Just ask teachers in New York, FL, GA, KY and other states who are 2 years ahead of CA in the implementation process. Educators like Diane Ravitch, Mark Naison, Paul Horton, Anthony Cody, Stephen Krashen, Sandra Stotsky, James Milgram, (these last 2 were on the validation committee for the standards and would not sign off on them as being what they claimed to be), Chris Tienken, Dr. Yong Zhao, Meg Norris and Kris Nielsen, Lance Izumi, Bill Evers just to name a few. Not to mention there are several child psychologist who have studied the standards and have testified of how developmentally inappropriate the standards are especially for younger kids.

    You might want to do some mile deep investigation into what the CCSS really is wanting to do to our kids, the teaching profess and public education. But hey, I applaud you for memorizing the shallow, mile wide propaganda handbook. Hopefully you will come to understand how mistaken you are about this before it is too late. Good luck! In the meantime us haters will be out there to fight for you to maintain your job as a public educator!

    • Suzanne says:

      Sadly they don’t really care about the children. It is all about the money. They forget what generation created the technology they are preparing these children for in the 21 century..I still see no list of those jobs of the future…after 3 years…still waiting!

    • Katy Scott says:

      You are right, here — there isn’t research on CCSS specifically, as they’ve only been in existence for a few years. However, there is quite a bit of research on the teaching methods supported by CCSS. For example, some of the research on the changes in math include “Helping Children Learn Mathematics” (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10434) and “A Research Companion to the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics” (http://www.nctm.org/catalog/product.aspx?ID=12341). The latter was written specifically for the NCTM standards, on which the CCSS were based.

      There’s also “How People Learn” (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9853). NEA has offered a number of research highlights on best practices, such as this highlight about research on Project-Based Learning (PBL isn’t specifically mentioned in CCSS, but it is supported by the adjustment in the standards): http://www.nea.org/tools/16963.htm

      • stlgretchen says:

        But the article wasn’t about the teaching standards or best practices, it was specifically on the standards themselves. I still don’t see the research backing up your original claims.

        Even if you buy into your research about teaching methods, this should have been a decision that did not circumvent state legislatures and turn over the direction/development of public education to private corporations held unaccountable to voters and legislatures.

        And, oh, by the way, the names folks are called (Common Core Haters, tin foil hat wearers, chattering class, misinformed, white suburban moms, etc) by the pro CCSS crowd are getting a bit tiresome and name calling tends to point out the fact that pro CCSS arguments don’t have any facts.

  6. Pat says:

    I really appreciate how accuse your opponents of not using facts and then you turn around and use ZERO facts to back up your claims……

  7. Meg Norris says:

    I am embarrassed for you. Really, I am. I can understand having to support this fiasco in order to protect your job. I can understand staying in the classroom to shield your students from the damage of Common Core. I cannot understand being so uninformed on something that is being forced on you. If even ONE person told me what I was doing was hurting children, I would move heaven and earth to make sure I wasn’t. Anyone who has done even 3 hours of research into Common Core can see how damaging this is to our children. Your points are nothing more than a regurgitation of the lies being fed to you by your administrators, district, state and DOE.
    You obviously are not TEACHING these standards. I will admit they sound good. They have sucked in many people. But a teacher, someone with a child development background SHOULD be able to see right through this disaster. They do not help children think critically. As a matter of fact they stop way short of covering enough for admission into any 4 year selective college. Even the President of Georgia Tech has said no child under Common Core could ever be considered for admission to GT. Fewer concepts more deeply? What? What does this even mean? There is no depth to these. The speed at which teachers are having to fly through them prevents basic understanding much less depth. Preparing students for the 21st Century? How? By assigning them a career path based on a test? Are you aware that reading on a computer screen REDUCES comprehension by up to 70%? How about that the elimination of handwriting greatly effects brain development? Research based? Experts? That is so laughable Im not sure where to begin. David Coleman is making $MILLIONS$ off of this and he has zero educational background. You can find this information in less than 5 minutes online. No field testing, no research. From what I can see every piece of your argument comes straight from the CC webpage. They are hard because they are cognitively inappropriate. They are asking kids to do things their brains are not ready to do. They are causing stress, chronic stress, in our children which leads to brain DAMAGE. Our current system is still one of the best in the world. We are still the only country who educates EVERYONE and tests EVERYONE. You cannot compare us to any other country.
    If CC continues we will have an education system for the elite, and a job training program for everyone else. That is the purpose of Common Core.
    I realize you are in CA and it is still early for you. Please take a look at what is happening in other states. There would NOT be 34 states trying to STOP COMMON CORE if it was so great. Michelle Rhee would not have to buy politicians if it was so great. And Gates would not be $2.3 billion poorer if it was so great. If it cannot win over the country on its own merits, how could it possibly be anything worth doing?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=erq5_LzkKPs&app=desktop

    • Tracy Taylor says:

      Meg Norris- what is your background? I’m just curious because most teachers that know are loving the Common Core standards. Especially when compared to the previous standards our state used. I have 3 children in school- 7th, 5th, and 4th. All of them are doing fine. One has dyslexia and has still been able to keep up with the standards. So I am very confused when I hear that Common Core is damaging to students. I have yet to meet a child in school that has been “damaged.” I have worked in the school as a school based Mental Health Therapist and am currently student teaching.

  8. Stef says:

    I’d love to see the research papers that prove these standards work. Where’s the case studies? My superintendent said we are the guinea pigs. His words not mine. He then quoted Bill Gates and said we won’t even know if CC will work for at least ten years.

    I’m afraid you didn’t dig very deep in your research. A mile wide and an inch deep maybe? Maybe you ought to dig a mile deep next time?

    I’ve spent hundreds of hours studying CC over the last 14 months and I could write a better pro common core piece than u have BUT I am against CC. Sadly you back nothing you’ve said with any facts, not even one. It’s all opinion.

    You also did address who wrote the standards, you didn’t mention that the standards in some states are lower (my state is). You didn’t mention how the standards were adopted. You didn’t address so many issues with CC. I highly suggest yu go back to what you believe about why CC is so great and do your mile deep research. I dare you try to catch up to the many parents who’ve spent countless hours on educating ourselves about the many facets of CC. It isn’t “just” about the standards.

  9. Kris Nielsen says:

    You don’t have to read the standards to copy talking points, which is what this article is – recycled talking points.

  10. Jen says:

    For me personally, my fight against Common Core has very little to do with the standards themselves but more with the loss of FREEDOM. When my rights as a parent to decide for my children are being squandered, that is when I step up and say “No.” A “one size fits all” set of standards just doesn’t sit well with me. Each child is a unique individual with specific ways of learning at a different pace. And when I have no choice but to take my child out of the public school that I pay for in taxes, there is something very wrong. And the underhanded manner in which Common Core was passed and enforced is just shocking. Why do so many parents still not know what it is?? Education should never be controlled by the government! Period. I refuse to hand over my parental rights to them just because they have presented what they think is a “good” plan. Local control and individual parental choices please. *BUZZ* Common Core is the wrong answer, try again.

  11. Michael Graham says:

    Keep strong. The CommonnCore State Standards will make a positive impact on education and our economy in the future. Thank you for writing this.
    Change is difficult. How could asking students and teachers to think critically and produce more meaningful work be wrong?

    http://goo.gl/1DXNW

    • Kris Nielsen says:

      Teachers have been doing this for a long time, standards don’t ask students to think critically, and the CCSS are no exception. In fact, I argue that the CCSS stifle critical thinking.

  12. Glen Dalgleish says:

    I first thought this was a Common Core ad until I read on to see it was actually a teacher just rehashing what the Core Standards web site says. A shame he couldn’t even express his love for the standards in his own words.

    I also suggest he goes and talks to Special Education children’s parents and ask them how they feel as they were never considered when they were written creating an even bigger gap for them. The standards were also written by a few, and that is proven. David Coleman, one of those people claimed that he had to convince the Governors to adopt them (sound state-led to you?). Don’t believe me, well hear and see him say it himself (http://youtu.be/76HryWYsDNc).

    I also question why we would roll out the largest educational overhaul this country solely on a research-based program, nothing fact-based. Would you not think that such a big change would be backed up with field tests? The fact that parents and educators ALL OVER THE COUNTRY are standing up to this should be an indication that all is not well. But hey, lets push it through.

    So I welcome the author to produce proof that the standards are higher and better, not just his opinion. Good luck with that as after three years, not a single State Ed Department or even the DoE has been able too. Will wait patiently.

  13. stlgretchen says:

    Did you know many “teachers of the year” are being pressed into service for their pro CCSS editorials? This is a tactic from “Teacher Voices Convening” sponsored by…wait, wait….Bill Gates. I see that the writer is not an active teacher but now is an education technology manager. Sounds like this message is certainly Bill Gates approved.

    From http://katienovakudl.com/category/empowering-educators/

    ******************************************

    Teacher Core Revolution
    29th July, 2013 · katienovakUDL · Leave a comment

    Last month, I spent two days at the National Teacher Voice Convening in Washington DC. I still feel a buzz of excitement. Every time I have an opportunity to meet with educators from across the country, I am more and more convinced that American education is remarkable. And now that the Common Core connects all teachers, our collective brilliance, creativity, and student empowerment will only amplify.

    I attended the conference to present an innovative project – The Teacher Core Revolution, which will use the power of teacher voice to help garner nationwide parental support of the Core in a series of videos. Think reality TV meets education!

    How will it work? Educators, like us, will use a provided template to create and record a short message to parents about how the Core will help their child succeed. These videos will then be distributed nationally, through traditional and social media channels.

    Voices of the opposition are loud, but parents deserve to hear about the power of the Core from the people who know education best.

    If you’d like your voice to be a part of the conversation, please download the TeacherCoreRevolution instructions and start filming. After posting, feel free to share on Twitter, using the hashtag #teachercorerevolution

    Happy Filming!
    ***************************************

    This article sounds like something straight off the CCSSO website of talking points. No research, no facts, no links for further information. For an initiative that stresses “data driven” practices, I find it ironic there is no data for these theories.

  14. Tiffany Douglas says:

    https://m.facebook.com/Arkansas against common core. I respectfully disagree. Common Core is not good for our students.

  15. Ernie says:

    I’m past the age of having children in the public school system but do have grandchildren there so still have more than a passing interest in what and how they’re being taught – or not taught.

    While I agree with the *standards* purported to be the aim of Common Core, I have to take exception with the methods to get them there. Having completed my elementary education more years ago than I care to count – or admit to – I had no problem grasping the concept of mathematics using first the rote method of learning my addition/subtraction tables and then moving on to the concepts of ones, tens, hundreds, etc.

    We had pictorial representations of addition/subtraction which, I think, taught the concepts quite nicely. Those concepts were then expanded into multiplication and division. Then, of course, once those concepts were clearly understood, algebra, calculus, trig and physics were more simply more complicated applications of those basic principles.

    And therein lies the secret; if the student doesn’t understand the basics, the more complicated processes are never going to mastered. Everyday mathematics requires very little critical thinking. Mathematics is not abstract, it’s concrete. Two plus two always equals four no matter how advanced a formula it’s found in. (No counter comments from you hexadecimal fans, please!)

    Obviously, some students weren’t as adept at math. Life has its compensations however. While I love history, my capacity for remembering dates and, particularly, names, sucked so there were many who fared better in that arena than I.

    My biggest concern with Common Core is the political bent that seems to be so intertwined into the curricula!

    We had word problems about Johnny having six apples and sharing three with his friend Jane. Why am I seeing materials turning this simple “critical thinking” application into a political statement by stating Johnny instead gave three of his apples to the Homeless Shelter? Why am I seeing a seventh grade history book that explains the Second Amendment grants the right to bear certain types of arms as long as they’re duly registered with Big Brother?

    Perhaps those are problems with textbook authors but in every instance I’ve seen the textbooks are advertised as “Common Core” compatible.

    The leftist faction seems determined to make it not only unacceptable, but illegal, to introduce any religious inference into the public education of our children. I submit that such exposure is infinitely less damaging than the political indoctrination that seems to be not just overlooked by our educators, but their specific aim!

  16. Traci Herbst says:

    Oy vay! I still feel as thought people are not actually reading the standards!
    They see their student’s text book with the stamp for CCSS and assume this is common core. Any company can stamp COMMON CORE on it and send out the text book.
    There are no textbooks for common core. And actually, if you look at previous standards these are not much different. They keep rebranding the same thing. Where was the uproar when NCLB was enacted and FAILED miserably?
    I agree some aspects of CC are ridiculous, like using computers for testing seeing as a lot of districts do not have the funds for enough computers for every student and therefore the time it will take for the entire school to complete their tests will be much longer than paper and pencil.
    However, introducing critical thinking to students is a great idea and one that must happen! And the math? it’s not very difficult if you actually take the time to understand what is going on. And, rote memorization is not going to help anyone in the long run.
    If I have $25.00 and I need to go to the grocery store, how will I figure out which items I can get? Should I get out my pencil and paper and write down each price and add it up? No, I am going to figure it out in my head using the “add it up” method that so many people are up in arms over.

    And to top it off, CCSS do not tell teachers HOW to teach math. No, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT is the one who comes up with the curriculum. Some people overlook this matter and say “OH COMMON CORE MATH” there is no COMMON CORE MATH, it just says that in kindergarten students need to be able to count to 100. it doesn’t say HOW to teach them.

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