Common core curriculum standards

By Bill Nolte | Oct 05, 2011

Many of us have heard the saying, “It is a mile wide and an inch deep.”  This is a fair description of most school curriculum standards across America.  Education is a state’s rights issue, constitutionally speaking.  For this reason the federal government has had little to do with educational standards until the last decade or so.  Before No Child Left Behind, Federal education initiatives were primarily limited to “equal opportunity” standards and minimal financial assistance to support enhanced instruction for handicapped or lower performing students.

Since several other nations appear to be outperforming American schools, there have been a number of political pushes to move our schools back to the front of the education race.  Conservative voices have called for less Federal control including the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education.  Liberal voices have called for a national curriculum managed by the Federal Government through the U.S. Department of Education.  Like me, you can probably see that efforts to improve education in America could easily be derailed by opposing political views.

While it is still yet to be determined, the new Common Core Standards seem to be a reasonable and politically savvy approach to improve education in America.  The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  That helps a lot with constitutional questions and the political disagreement about the role of the U.S. Department of Education.  The standards were developed with teachers and school administrators.  This will hopefully provide a practical real world approach to teaching and learning in America.

The standards are designed to provide consistent academic standards for all students, regardless of where they live.  The standards are aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and are evidence based.  The standards provide a clear focus that is much better than the vague curriculum designs we have been given in the past.   The Common Core Standards are “a mile deep and an inch wide.”  For the record, that is my interpretation and may not be something the developers had in mind.

For North Carolina this is the training year.  Our teachers are learning the new standards.  North Carolina has also added Essential Standards that cover every subject and every grade level.  We will start teaching and assessing the Common Core Standards and Essential Standards next fall.  No one can accurately predict the success of this new approach.  However, it effectively avoids some constitutional and political issues, focuses on specific learning expectations and does not use a “blame-based” approach like No Child Left Behind.

As with all columns, this is an assessment and opinion based upon personal and professional experience.  Any factual information was taken or adapted from the Common Core Standards website (www.corestandards.org).

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