Can students measure up to the Common Core?

Common Core is not the best, but it is most definitely a step in the right direction

Staff Editorial
Originally published December 18, 2013

Ian Gwin

Ian Gwin

With the stale taste of the standardized tests in our mouth, Seattle schools are facing a new controversy: the integration of the Common Core curriculum. Partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Common Core curriculum was created in 2010 to give comparable standards and goals for students to reach throughout their learning process.

Across the country, teachers and parents are speaking out about the problems with the Common Core. However, 45 state legislatures have made the decision to integrate the new standards. A survey of Ballard teachers by the Talisman staff revealed that although 85 percent of teachers favor the Common Core, 40 percent feel that the standards do not accurately represent students.

The Common Core Standards come in the wake of many failed education initiatives, such as former president George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA). As stated by the Center on Education Policy, 48 percent of the nation’s public schools failed to meet NCLBA goals in 2011. This is up from 39 percent in 2010 and 29 percent in 2006. Common Core standards differ from its counterparts in its emphasis on written standards versus evaluating students simply on numbers.

According to the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment test taken by students in 65 countries, U.S. students are far behind their peers in Asia and Europe. The United States has integrated numerous education programs, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) but none seem to be making a true impact. While the United States lags far behind other industrialized nations academically, the Common Core could aid us in moving to the forefront.

Although Common Core Standards are a vast improvement from various test-heavy initiatives, it is hard to ignore opposing arguments.

First, the creation of the Common Core did not include teachers, parents or students until the very end of the process. How can we say that the standards represent students when they (nor teachers for that matter) had little to no say in its development?

Many opponents of the standards also emphasize the extreme cost. In 2008, over $30 million was put towards teacher trainings to aid in the transition to the new standards. Not only do such teacher trainings detract from time spent on classroom instruction but those cost estimates do not even include the prices of purchasing new materials for the program, such as textbooks. As school districts continue to struggle with budget cuts and downsizing initiatives, is the Common Core the correct allocation of money?

According to PISA data it might be. Average scores from Massachusetts were above the international average in all three subject areas. So what is Massachusetts doing?

Massachusetts has essentially just taken cues from many other countries. It has made it harder to become a teacher by implementing a new basic literacy test that must be passed to enter the classroom. To help students who weren’t making the mark, the state moved money around in order to fund programs such as tutoring.

Massachusetts has accepted the new Common Core standards but who’s to say that the Common Core couldn’t get some pointers from the state?

Common Core offers a glimpse of hope among a failing education system.It might not be the answer to all the flaws in our national education system but it is a step in the right direction and many teachers agree.

Although the Common Core Standards represent a step towards looking beyond the numbers, students and the quality of education in Washington state would benefit from a form of measurement that is constantly evolving. We need to find a balance- the shifting nature of annual tests of measurements and the broad context of the standards.