Like many other states around the country, Maryland has been rocked by the heated debate about Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The debate began to heat up in 2013, and in 2014, it is still raging.
I have been aware of CCSS since 2011, but it has taken me years to understand what it is exactly. If it was not for the fact that I teach at the post-secondary level and learned about CCSS through that avenue, as a parent, I would be confused
At first, no one was really understood what CCSS was and how it would affect education. Today, few people really understand it. Kids in the middle and high schools are finding the shift from their previous way of learning to this new way uncomfortable. Many teachers are overwhelmed by the volume of work required to switch from one way of teaching to another in a short period of time. Parents are frustrated because they see the kids frustrated, and they feel powerless to help them through the transition. No one is happy.
What is my first thought? The people behind CCSS have done a poor job in terms of PR. CCSS has caused more confusion I think than any other educational change in the last 30 years. Very few people truly understand what CCSS is, and there is where the first problem lies. People are upset that the federal government is telling state and local school systems what to teach. That is what they have heard, and that is what they know. People have little idea what CCSS is.
CCSS is NOT a curriculum. It is a set of objectives written for each grade level for English (reading and writing) and math. The consortium behind CCSS got together and worked out what skills they thought students should master at each grade level. How a school system decides to teach the standards is up to that school system. They just have to make sure the objectives are reached.
The best way to understand CCSS is to go to the official website and read some of those objectives. I took the time to read through some that are required for my kids at their current grade levels.
What is my second thought? The implementation of CCSS is too rapid; three years is too fast to transition entire k-12 school systems. The three-year implementation has done more to heat up the debate and anger people than confusion over what CCSS is itself.
Although not well liked, NCLB never created the firestorm that CCSS has simply because it was implemented over a 12-year period. It did not rock the foundation of education. It came to schools in little ripples. Large institutions need time to adjust, and it is unwise to change middle school or high school students’ way of learning in the middle of the process. The federal and state governments are mandating that local school systems re-do an entire system overnight with limited funds.
Educators at the state level need to speak in plain English and explain what CCSS is and is not. When the state educators have come to us and spoken about the curriculum, they have entirely missed the boat in explaining CCSS to parents. They fall back on their jargon and buzz words. I get the impression that they do not understand CCSS all that well.
The federal and state governments need to admit that they made a mistake with the time line for implementation. And more importantly, they need to amend the time line and give educators more time to implement CCSS. As a parent, the decision-makers’ insistence on 3-year implementation completely blows my mind. Could their own governments make such sweeping changes in such a short time? Look at the Affordable Care Act at the federal and state levels, and you have your answer.