I think there are two ways to look at Common Core Standards Initiative. First, you have transparent and accessible standards available to the general public on a website. Adopting Common Core is compelling for this reason alone. It is powerful because parents, teachers, administrators and even students understand students’ learning expectations by grade and subject. In addition, third-party institutions are developing online courses and games designed on teaching particular standards. For example, SimCity created educational games teachers might utilize in the classroom or students play at home. Second, there are state standardized tests based on Common Core and this is what much of the negative attention is focused on. Testing is complex because it covers all primary and secondary education (K-12), and it is given to the entire demographic – public, private, and charter schools. Cleary there is room for improvement regarding the testing aspect of Common Core.
There is negative feedback for Common Core by reputable educators. Recently, a team of New York principals sent a letter to parents explaining some of their perceived flaws in new standardized testing based on Common Core.[i]
In the letter, the principals say the test is too long and has ambiguous questions, and some children ‘react viscerally’ to taking the test. All of these problems are fixable by whoever is responsible for creating the standardized test; regardless, it does not translate to dropping Common Core standards. Schools should utilize an online version of the standard test so it is adaptive to students taking it, making it less harsh for the students who are overly challenged by it.
Also in the letter is a point that the achievement gap is widening because of the standardize testing. Let’s motivate our children to perform based on their competency, not on their economic upbringing. Common Core is meant to challenge and engage our children to do better. That being said, there should be free, universally accepted resources (such as online courses and/or games) to support Common Core. All a student needs is access to a computer and the internet to supplement his or her learning in the classroom.
I preface that I do not have children. I do not have experience consoling a child when they are visibly upset after taking a difficult test. I do not have experience trying to motivate a dejected child after he or she sees test results that they are under-performing among their peers. Without question, both of these situations require compassionate parenting. Common Core Standards Initiative should publish parenting advice which coincides with releasing test results to elementary age students.
I mentioned earlier about SimCity offering games to build skills related to Common Core standards. On their website, they publish specific Common Core standards and primary skills being developed by playing their game (as shown in the graphic). Mapping what skills and knowledge you are building should become the norm for all online courses and educational games, and works great with a Skills-Based Approach – where you plan and build a skill set.
[i] Valerie Strauss. “N.Y. school principals write letter of concern about Common Core tests.” The Washington Post, November 21, 2013.