We all know that 45 states in the U.S. have adopted the Common Core Standards, the defacto “national” standard now.
It is not the first time the Common Core Standards were developed or introduced. It began as an accountability initiative in 1990’s by the State Governors and corporate leaders – as a laudable effort to raise academic standards.
Trouble was, it never resulted in any measurable improvement in raising the standards across the nation for quite a while. So, what happened?
Well, many states “adopted” versions of the standard that was created and created “their own” tools to demonstrate compliance with the Common Core Standards. There was no governing body to oversee implementation or to evaluate if everyone did everything as they were supposed to be intended.
We cannot blame the teachers. They did what they could with limited resources and still be in compliant with state specific norms.
In short, what was created earlier was not commonly used across the U.S., was not the core philosophy guiding teaching principles, and certainly was not the standard of teaching practice.
They should have been called the uncommon peripheral suggestions!
So, what’s different about the Common Core Standards this time around?
They really are the common-core-standards!
Common – because 45 states have entirely adopted a single view of what has been created. It’s like agreeing to speak a common language among everyone else. Teachers can now teach math using the same language – terms, words, concepts – that is pretty much universally understood and accepted. Now, when a teacher in New Jersey wants to get clarification on a second-grade math topic, she can use the common language given in the standards to converse with another teacher in California. The second-grade math topic is the same everywhere!
Core – because it is the foundation, the bedrock on which America will once again become competitive in Math. A solid foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and decimals – so that students can use them for more challenging concepts as they progress. Our students will once again reach the same levels of proficiency that the world has come to expect from students in Singapore and Sweden. If you have a foundation that is a mish-mash of many things, it is neither strong nor stable and prone to repeated band-aid fixes. Not the type of foundation you want to build your math curriculum. It is also based on Singapore Math, because students in Singapore have consistently ranked at the top in international math competitions. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – and we need to adopt the very best practices for teaching math that others have found to work successfully.
Standards – because they define the what, how, and why of teaching math and help students across the U.S. use standards that have the same rigor, coherence and focus across the nation. Rigor is needed to ensure preparedness for taking on complex math topics later on in life. Coherence means that they are logically structured so that students understand why they learn to add before they can encounter multiplication problems. Focus means that students can understand the linkage between concepts and how they apply to real-world problem-solving.
This is math nirvana – if one ever existed! Hallelujah.
This is the first time in the history of U.S. classroom education, that the nation has come together to address a foundational problem with the intellectual rigor that it deserved. More importantly, our teachers finally got what they have been asking for all along – a road map that they can rely on for doing their work efficiently and effectively to help teach math to the millions of students who go through our school system.
Until now, it was easy to blame someone else, because someone else deserved to be blamed. The system was faulty. It was messy. It was poorly conceived.
Are we all ready for the challenge? We are. Are you? Let us know your thoughts.
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