It is very discouraging to me that states are currently considering and debating on reversing their decision to adopt and implement the Common Core State Standards. Many people are speaking out against Common Core State Standards, but most of the critics are not in classrooms and have never been in a classroom. To gain a true understanding of whether the Common Core Standards are effective and provide our students with a rigorous education, teachers and other education professionals should be consulted.
Teachers are on the frontlines implementing and assessing the standards day in and day out, and as an educator, I have seen the positive effects of the standards. We have become a nation that expects immediate gratification; wanting positive results now. All eyes have been on Kentucky because we were the first to adopt, implement, and assess the standards and our test scores dropped in the first round of tests (which was expected due to the increase in rigor). It is very encouraging to see the upward progress of test scores following the second round of testing, but we also have to realize that positive increases in achievement will take time. It will take several years before we will see the true, long lasting benefits of Common Core State Standards. Students have to be given a fair chance to learn and master standards to show proficiency and this will not be done in one year. As educators and parents, we know that rushing a child does not make them accomplish tasks faster or accurately.
As a teacher, I have noticed improvements in student achievement. Through formal and informal data collection and analysis, I have observed student growth after implementing Common Core State Standards. I am a firm believer and supporter of Common Core; not because I am a Republican or a Democrat, but because I see that the standards are best for our students.
Utilizing the standards allows educators to do what they went to college to do: teach. One of the oppositions to the Common Core is that teachers are being told what they have to teach. But this is not new; teachers have always been given state standards to follow and must address those standards throughout the year. The Common Core Standards are the same; they do not tell teachers how to teach, but rather what to teach. In fact, under the Common Core Standards teachers have even more freedom in their classrooms. Educators are no longer locked into teaching from a box or to a multiple choice, standardized test.
Common Core State Standards are NOT curriculum; they do not come in a box, they do not come scripted in lessons. The Common Core State Standards are standards; they clearly state what students should master by the end of the school year. Teachers are allowed to address the standards in ways that meet the needs of the students within their classroom. The resources and curriculum that one teacher uses may not be the same resources and curriculum that a teacher in the next state, next county, next school, or even down the hall uses to bring students to mastery. As a result of this individualized approach, students are receiving best practice instruction that is tailored to their learning needs.
Consistency is the key; constantly changing standards will only make our education problem worse and increase the amount of time that will be needed to bring about positive growth. Collaboration and support is what is required to increase student achievement. If the time spent arguing, debating, and politicizing the Common Core State Standards was spent on supporting teachers, collaborating with parents, and locating resources to increase achievement, every student across the country would benefit and we would begin to realize the larger increases in student achievement that we are currently arguing over.
Heather McGovern is a teacher with Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky. As part of her job, Heather works closely with school administration and classroom teachers to use Common Core State Standards and researched based interventions to increase student achievement. She also serves on the 15th District PTA Kentucky Core Academic Standards team as a teacher representative to educate parents about the Common Core Standards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in elementary and learning and behavior disorders education from Bellarmine University, and is currently working on her School Counseling Master’s degree at Liberty University.