Common Core Arguments

Common Core (for math) is a good thing?

I suspect this is happening in other places, but I’ve been enjoying various letters-to-the-editor in our local paper making arguments for and against the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  I’m not here to argue one side or the other (I’m basically positive, and, for transparency, I serve on a statewide committee related to CCSS connection to higher ed).  What I’m finding interesting in the arguments is that both sides are actually right, but they are arguing for different things.

Those supporting CCSS focus their arguments on the higher standards and the focus on college/career readiness.  In my state, it was not long ago that the high school standards for college-readiness in math was a math ACT score of 191! And, sadly, the percentage of students that achieved this (low) standard, was not very high.  Efforts to raise the standards had begun, and one could view CCSS as a continuation (and finalization) of these higher standards.  Also the focusing of the topics and the increase on rigor and reasoning is a good thing at least for those going into math in higher education.  The intent of CCSS is relatively clear, but the results will depend on how well it is implemented.  One reasonable concern is the amount and type of computer based testing that is planned.

Those against CCSS focus their arguments on the source and commercial interests involved in the creation of the CCSS.  It is clear that the motivation and early (or even most of the) participants that developed CCSS came from business and politics and unfortunate (but not necessarily evil) that more educators weren’t involved.  It is also clear that some commercial companies will be making big money on the implementation and testing involved in CCSS. It is a problem, and might be the ultimate downfall of CCSS, that the content specialists weren’t brought into the process early (or enough).

Either way you look at it, CCSS is a big deal. Maybe it’s best contribution to education will be all the discussions that it has spawned. I look forward to the next round of letters, especially after the first year of tests and more than the usual number of students fail.

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1For reference, ACT uses 22 for ‘College Readiness’ and many/most area colleges would probably send a student with a score below 22 into remediation; even a 22 only gets you entry into College Algebra which does earn college credit, but one might argue that it isn’t really indicative of college-readiness.

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