Let’s Stay the Course – One Teacher’s Opinion on the Common Core/Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards

Note: Please understand that this is my opinion as a teacher who is responsible for implementing the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.  I believe in the power of the standards when they are implemented well.  Finding the best ways to implement the standards and a better assessment for them continues to be a challenge.

I’ve been implementing the Common Core, or as we know it in Arizona, the College and Career Ready standards for three years in my fifth grade classroom.  But I’m going to let you in on a secret: it hasn’t changed my teaching very much.  In fact, the standards finally caught up with what many good educators have been trying to do for a long time – move away from rote memorization and isolated skills and return to creativity and in-depth learning in the classroom.  We are finally seeing a return to cross-curricular, integrated learning which help students build connections to the real world outside of the classroom.

Some of my 5th graders analyzing text, searching for evidence to prove their opinions.

Unfortunately, these standards have been used as a tool to increase the divisiveness involved with current politics while completely overshadowing our priorities as teachers and parents to provide the best education for our children.  To give the standards an honest evaluation, we must separate them from the political hysteria that has surrounded them. 

The educational environment varies greatly from one classroom to the next, and that variety continues and expands at the school, district, state, and national level.  These new standards help unify educators from around the United States in a way that will ensure continued excellence from accomplished teachers while motivating all teachers to expect the best from our children.

Here’s what I appreciate about the standards as both a parent and a teacher:

·        They define what students should know and be able to do – not how teachers should teach.  The standards are not a curriculum – we will maintain local control of how the standards are taught and with what materials through our local school districts, school boards, and teachers.  I can tailor my teaching to the needs and interests of the individual learners in front of me each year.

·        We’re hearing from colleges and employers that our students must be able to read and analyze complex information.  Our graduates need to be widely literate to be college ready and employable.  The standards emphasize more non-fiction to provide our students with what they will need as graduates.

·        They raise expectations for all students.  We have to raise the floor so we can raise the ceiling. A common set of standards is one of the hallmarks of top performing countries around the world.  

·        The standards emphasize less discrete skills and honor the whole child.  In implementing our previous state standards, I felt like I had to race through with little time for the depth my students deserved.  Now there are fewer standards so I can take the time to delve in.  Do I want my daughter or my students to regurgitate facts on a test like a computer?  No!  That’s what Google is for.  I want my daughter to have an education where she can be an independent learner and critical thinker where she uses evidence to form opinions and make decisions. 

We are heading in the right direction.   We are building a high-quality educational foundation for every student in Arizona and the nation.  Let’s stay the course.

Note: this op-ed has been published in the Northwest Valley Republic, the Surprise Today, yourwestvalley.com, and the AZ Capitol Times.


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