The Common Core – Childhood Education

I serve on the Advisory Board of Our Lady Queen of Angels Elementary school (K-8), a member school of The Partnership of Inner-City Education. The school has spent a significant amount of time and money transitioning its curriculum as the Common Core State Standards Initiative comes into effect. If you’re unfamiliar, the Common Core is an educational initiative in the United States to establish educational standards across the country and to better prepare students for both college and the workforce. There is a significant amount of literature including this Business Insider article that supports the fact the United States’ education system is rapidly falling behind. The Common Core is one step that will hopefully curb this decline and help improve the quality of education and outcomes for children across the country.

The Common Core seeks to establish standards across math and English that will prepare students to become contributing citizens of the world. There are no specific reading requirements but students are expected to read a range of materials and subjects in order to acquire new insights and consider varying perspectives. General writing standards are given to support the development of logical claims and sound reasoning based on relevant evidence. In addition, students are required to write opinion pieces and focused research projects, aimed at developing research and written analytical skills. There is an emphasis on discussion-based learning, utilizing group projects and class presentations followed by collaborative discussions. Basically, what this says is that rather than being focused on reading and having teachers present facts, the education will be focused on understanding and reasoning; a shift that I am confident will promote the notion of knowledge but more importantly, intelligence and cognition. Another interesting change that I believe makes sense, is a shift away from teaching cursive handwriting and instead, focusing on modern forms of media including basic typing. In math, the focus has moved away from regurgitation of formulas and towards strategic thinking and reasonable problem solving. I recall much of my early mathematical education being focused on repetition and numerical problems. The Common Core is focused on application so, in a basic example, rather than teaching students that 2×2=4, teachers will utilize real life examples – if you have two apples and you double that amount, you will have four apples. This is not to say the multiplication tables will be eliminated but there is a stronger focus on application and comprehension. The Common Core provides high-level parameters that determine the specific level of knowledge students should attain in each grade. It allows schools and teachers to be creative in designing unique or shared curriculums that will lead to this now standard level of knowledge base.

I believe the adoption of the Common Core will help improve the quality of the education offered in this country and it will help produce valued individuals that will contribute to society. I recently listened to a podcast on Freakonomics Radio,Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem,” which raises another important question about the quality of our teachers. While the Common Core attempts to create standards of the level of education students should attain throughout his or her schooling, it does not effectively address the way in which we teach our youth. These teachers go through a Master’s program, studying theorems and principles of teaching with minimal application. Perhaps there should be a more immersive environment for teachers to receive his or her necessary post-secondary education – an environment that promotes more direct involvement with students. As the Common Core attempts to better prepare students for the “real world,” maybe there should be a system to better prepare teachers. This obviously does not apply to everyone, but I can say from experience, that there are many unqualified teachers in our public education system. Childhood education is a global investment, and one that will have major implications for our future. We should be doing everything in our power to prepare students and teachers alike with the best resources available.

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