Why the Common Core?

The Common Core: filling in the gaps and preparing for life beyond college

By Kelly Weymouth


Students in the classroom

As of summer 2012, forty-five states and three United States territories have parted with individual state standards to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core is a state-led (not federal) initiative to establish clear and measurable standards in the areas of mathematics and English language arts. Policy makers, educators, administrators, and parents from many states have come together to draft these new standards with a shared goal: to maintain America’s competitive edge both in education and in the global marketplace. While thoughts of new standards, curriculum, and assessments may seem overwhelming to educators, there are numerous benefits to using a common set of K-12 educational standards.

Standardizing and Assessing 

In the past, the differing educational standards rendered it difficult to compare education throughout the nation. However, with the Common Core, each school, district, and state will have a much more reliable and valid measure for comparing academic performance. Similarly, by having a common set of standards, pupils who move between schools, districts, or states will transition more smoothly. They should be studying the same things in the new school as they were in the previous school. Additionally, no matter where they move, they will receive the same high-quality education geared toward preparing them for college and the workforce. With a new set of standards, there are also new assessment measures. As states begin to implement the Common Core State Standards, collaborative efforts have started developing a standardized way to assess student achievement of these standards. By having uniform assessment measures, schools and states will ensure that the educational needs of each individual are being met.

Creating Critical Thinkers

Are we teaching our pupils to memorize information? Or are we creating deep, critical thinkers? Critics of individual state educational standards argue that most standards are aimed at getting students to memorize information, not necessarily apply it to real-life situations. Creators of the Common Core want to ensure that scholars are leaving high school ready for all facets of adult academic life. A college freshman may be quite accomplished at memorizing facts, taking multiple-choice tests, and writing essays, but is he able to manage his personal finances? These necessary, but often over-looked, life skills are just as important as academic skills. The Common Core seeks to address these skills.

For example, learners should be able to compute an interest rate for a personal purchase. Common Core high school mathematics strand 2: A.SSE.3c Use the properties of exponents to transform expressions for exponential functions. For example the expression 1.15t can be rewritten as (1.15(1/12)) 12t ≈ 1.01212t to reveal the approximate equivalent monthly interest rate if the annual rate is 15%.

Developing Effective Communicators

An important focus in the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards is on written communication. Educators recognize that effective written communication is an area where our nation’s young learners are far behind. The Common Core puts a greater emphasis on different types, purposes, and genres of writing. Scholars explore scenarios for different types of writing. As they progress through the grade levels, the Common Core increases the complexity of writing. Not only is it important for pupils to be able to write a five-paragraph essay, but they also need to know how to compose a business or cover letter, and a resume.

Engendering High-Quality Resources and Technology Integration

Until now, the myriad of state standards meant that textbook publishers had to develop many different versions of curriculum and coordinating technology components. This means that instead of perfecting the resources for one set of standards, they had to diversify, thus creating lackluster technology components to comply with multiple sets of standards. Now publishing companies can spend their time and resources developing and perfecting curriculum and technology that is attuned only to one set of standards. This will ultimately benefit learners who rely on multimedia and supplemental material for content mastery.

Enhancing Teacher Collaboration

The most substantial gain from switching to a common set of educational standards is the increased cooperation among educators. Instead of teachers being limited to their own state for correlated lesson plans and teaching ideas, they can now collaborate with a much broader population. As the Common Core transition begins to take place, teachers will be able to search blogs and teaching websites for ideas by simply looking up a Common Core standard number. Educators will also be able to communicate more readily with one another about what areas of the standards seem to be most difficult for their learners and how best to address those gaps. Overall, moving to a uniform set of educational standards will give students more opportunities for success, both in their education and in their lives as a whole.

Incorporating Ideas:

Writing for a Purpose

As mentioned above, a big focus with the Common Core is to get pupils prepared for a variety of writing that they will have to do in college and later in their careers. This resource will help to identify the different ways we formulate our thoughts before writing, depending on our reason for writing.

M&M Interesting

Understanding the difference between a savings bank account, a checking account, and the interest associated with each, is not only part of the Common Core, it’s a life skill that adolescents need. Here, they work in groups to decide between a savings account with simple interest and one with compound interest.

Resume Writing

In order for teens to be prepared for life beyond high school and college, they must know how to write a resume. Walk your high schoolers through the basics of what to include on a resume and how to make it visually appealing.