The “Common Core” standards have become a topic of debate among parents in Orange County. One viral video features a mom from Arkansas giving the school board a 4th grade math problem and asking them to solve it… and then telling the board that under the Common Core their answer would be “marked wrong” and, instead, are expected to take “108 steps” to solve it. Another article says that the Common Core is throwing out cursive. One newspaper stated that 8th graders will no longer be taking Algebra, therefore, “dumbing down” our standards. Some Orange County parents say that they will “opt out” of testing and make sure that their kids are not involved with the Common Core. Others question the standards and ask, “What’s wrong with teaching math the way we learned it?”
What should you make of all of these ideas? As a parent, it is your job to stay informed about your child’s education and understand expectations put on him or her. The Center for Learning and Behavioral Solutions hopes to help you stay informed with accurate information so that you can make the best decision for your child:
Misconception #1: The Common Core “Dumbs Down” Our Standards
In reality, this Common Core is much more rigorous than California’s current state standards. For example, fourth graders have always been asked to write narratives that describe a situation with sensory (descriptive) details. They are now being asked to do the same, but to include transition words and dialogue. There is also a heavy emphasis put on informational texts throughout the reading standards; an area essentially ignored in California’s standards. For example, eleventh and twelfth graders are expected to “Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).” Clearly, language arts standards are adding depth to the past standards.
The Common Core has come under fire in the area of math, specifically. Rest assured, math is not being “dumbed down.” Rather, students are expected to draw pictures to justify their answers rather than list basic facts. They are also being expected to identify errors and remedy them to demonstrate understanding of the concepts behind computation. Additionally, many of the standards are moving down a grade. For example, multiplying fractions used to be a fifth grade standard; it is now a fourth grade standard.
If you want to know more about specific standard comparisons, the “Common Core Crosswalk” lines up every previous California standard and compares them to Common Core Standards:
Misconception #2: Cursive will no longer be taught in the Common Core
Cursive is not in the Common Core. However, states have the ability to add up to 15% of material to the Common Core (such as adding California history). California, as well as some other states (Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah as of now), has chosen to add cursive to our standards. Cursive will still be taught in California.
Misconception #3: Eighth Graders will no longer be taking Algebra
The “Algebra for All” push made 8th grade Algebra mandatory… whether or not your child was ready for it. Rest assured, Algebra is still being taught—as early as first grade. However, Algebra as a class is a state decision. California gives local school districts control over what this looks like. For example, in Irvine, middle school students can take 7th Grade Common Core Math, 8th Grade Common Core Math, Algebra 1, or Geometry. Placement is based on open-ended testing in May and June. Check your local school district for information regarding 8th grade math and/or Algebra 1.
If your child attends school in Irvine, you can find out more here:
Misconception #4: The Common Core Standards are costing our State Billions of Dollars
True, implementing new standards costs money (an estimated $1.2 billion per state). However, California received $1.25 billion to implement the standards and that money is being divided among local districts. Additionally, public education sets aside money for new textbooks in each subject every six years. Districts have been adopting supplemental materials to meet their short-term needs and will be adopting new textbooks when they have gone through the adoption process. This is not a new cost. Finally, many businesses and community members support the Common Core. Therefore, they are providing funding and materials (like computers) to implement the standards. Because the standards are national, many online resources are available and can be shared amongst states in a way that was never possible in the past.
Misconception #5: It’s a Good Idea to Opt-Out of Testing
California law allows parents to opt-out of any standardized test by simply writing a note. Proponents of opting out cite a desire to demonstrate their disapproval of testing, in general, and the time it takes away from teaching and learning in the classroom. Although this sentiment is well-intentioned, it fails to take into account the benefits of assessment and its role in teaching and learning.
Next year, students in grades 3-8 and 11 will participate in the CAASP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress). This includes Smarter Balanced assessments for math and English-language arts, the CST (California Standards tests) for science in grades 5, 8, and 10, or possibly the CMA or CAPA for science (both modified tests). None of this is new… except for the Smarter Balanced Assessments. These are computer adaptive tests, meaning that questions adjust based on student performance, and include performance tasks unlike the CST of the past. Districts began piloting the tests last year and will continue to do so this year.
Some parents think opting out this year is a good idea, but we would argue otherwise. Because it’s a new test, we believe it is a good idea to allow your child to experience the test much as they would a practice test. The stakes are low and there is a lot to gain. Increased comfort with the procedures for taking the test on a computer, experience with the types of questions being asked, and gaining general test-taking strategies will benefit your child during the 2014-2015 school year when testing will be put in place.
What’s a Parent to Do?
The reality is, if your child is attending or will attend a California public school, the Common Core Standards will guide their experience in education. Additionally, if your child attends a private school, he or she will eventually be exposed to the material through textbooks and possibly the school’s policy regarding the implementation of the standards in classrooms. As a parent, you want to be sure that you prepare your child as best as you can. At Center for Learning, we have been working hard to align our instruction with what our students are being expected to do in public and private schools throughout Orange County. You can expect that those most precious to you are in good hands.