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Op-ed: What Common Core standards are and aren't

Published November 9, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a high school principal, I, like colleagues in 45 other states and the District of Columbia, have had to dissect what Common Core is and isn't. At Judge Memorial we have worked with our English and mathematics departments to study and develop curricula that meet or exceed the Common Core standards.

In math, three states have chosen an integrated pathway of the standards as opposed to the traditional pathway: Utah, North Carolina and West Virginia. These three have adopted an alternative that may not completely reflect the collegial standards agreed upon by the other 42 adoptive states.

Common Core is not a federal government conspiracy. Nor is it a curriculum, as some believe. Rather, the standards were formulated by educators across the nation and adopted as a framework for districts and schools to develop curriculum.

School systems fill in the framework with planned lessons, standards-based assessment, and a curriculum aligned between grade levels. The Common Core intends that students will study fewer concepts but in a deeper, richer way. It is a framework for school systems to set high expectations.

While it is not popular in some circles to say that high-stakes testing helps schools improve, it has held schools accountable, very visibly, for all students' performance or lack of. The same can be said for adoption of the National Common Core Standards.

Teachers have to alter what is taught and the way it is taught. Students are learning differently as well. As with high-stakes testing, the Common Core has forced educators to ensure that all students are exposed to and meet standards that are global in expectation. In America we expect our students to outperform students from any other nation.

As a nation, we are competing against some robust world economies including emerging powerhouses like China and India. The Common Core unites the 45 states in leveling the playing field with other international competitors.

The main argument against Common Core centers around states' sovereign rights and an intrusion of the federal government eroding local control.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is incumbent on educators, nationwide, as one, to tackle the malaise found in parts of the American education system. One way to do just that is through complete Common Core implementation.

Certainly, there is more to dynamic educational systems than just giving teachers and administrators a different set of standards. Nothing takes the place of a dedicated, prepared, innovative classroom teacher. Pair that teacher with other educators developing curricula that address the Common Core standards and you set the bar of global educational competitiveness to a whole new level.

It is easy to find common ground when we center dialogue on what Common Core is as opposed to what it isn't. We want our nation to remain first on all fronts internationally; we also want local school systems to write unique curricula to meet common standards. Common Core puts the focus on our most important resource: our students.

Rick Bartman is principal of Judge Memorial Catholic High School.






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