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Common Core 101: Standards are not curriculum

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Testing season is now upon us, and social media is blowing up with parents outraged over the Common Core. I personally cannot go a day without seeing something on Facebook about how the Common Core is evil. The Common Core is developmentally inappropriate. The Common Core is making my child hate reading, hate school. The Common Core is out to get us all.

Let me help bring a little bit of perspective…and much needed clarification.

The Common Core Standards are just that, standards. They are statements indicating what students should be able to do by the time they graduate from high school in order to be able to meet the rigorous demands of college or the workforce. They are statements specific to reading, writing, language, and speaking and listening (i.e., “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text”). They are translated into grade-specific expectations, again aligning that trajectory to college and career readiness.

(By the way, standards are not new. New York State attempted to level the playing field for all students across the state in this draft published in 1994.)

The standards do not tell teachers how to teach. They are the “what” to teach. It is up to every teacher, school, and district to determine the “how” to teach it.

Enter curriculum.

A curriculum is a set of materials or resources to help teachers teach to any set of standards. Every district has the prerogative to choose curricular materials. Some chose to use the state modules. Some chose to purchase new Common Core editions of their current textbooks. Some chose to rewrite their own district curriculum. These choices are district choices. So for those parents posting pictures of complicated math homework or questionable social studies materials on Facebook, that’s not the evils of the Common Core. Those are district-chosen curricular materials they are using to teach to the Common Core Standards. See the difference?

It’s obvious that many of the curricular resources out there today are questionable, for a wide variety of reasons. However, let’s not keep using “Common Core” as a blanket statement and throwing so much hate at something meant to help our children learn and grow. Let’s really look at the standards, think about how they will better prepare our children for life, and put more support behind helping our children reach them.

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