Common Core Standards debated educationally and politically

Common Core Standards debated educationally and politically
The Common Core State Standards adopted by Michigan and 45 other states continues to be controversial—and not just in the education world, but also in the political arena.

The Standards are part of an initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. According to them, the purpose of the standards is to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so teachers and parents know what they need to help them." They aren't intended to be a national curriculum. They spell out what a student should know to graduate ready for college or careers, but how students learn is left up to local school districts.

So far, the Standards cover math and English language arts. Beginning with the 2014-15 school year, Michigan and 25 other states will be given the Smarter Balanced Assessment that will be aligned with the Standards. The tests will be given online and are meant to replace the MEAP and MME. The tests will be challenging since the Standards emphasize critical thinking, rather than just rote memorization. Students will be expected to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the material. And teachers are already moving to make curriculum changes to accommodate the new focus.

Supporters of the new Standards praise them for preparing students to compete globally and the fact that students moving from state to state won't lose out on learning since there will be a commonality of standards across the country. They believe the Standards only set expectations, leaving local control intact.

But, some Michigan lawmakers are balking at the commonality, claiming that the Standards strip local education control from educators and parents who should be deciding curriculum. They also reject the idea that the federal government is offering incentives to states who adopt the Standard—again, a loss of local or state control.

In September, Rep. Tom McMillan of the House Education Committee introduced HB 5894 that would force the State Board of Education to reject its 2010 adoption of the Standards. The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.

There probably won't be any movement on the bill until after the Nov. 6 election. In the meantime, MEA's Professional Development/Human Rights Department will soon be posting links to a series of webinars to help teachers incorporate the Standards into their English and math curriculums. In addition to providing needed information about the Standards to teachers, the webinars will provide discussion on how to implement the Standards. The webinar series can be used as a local professional development opportunity.