Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Six Ways the Common Core is Good For Students

May 10, 2013 by twalker  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories


By Cindy Long

As the Common Core debate heats up, we’ve heard a lot from policy makers, politicians, and even TV talk show hosts about the challenges posed by the new standards and whether they’ll help or hurt education. With all the chatter, the voices of the professionals who are actually responsible for implementing the Common Core have been all but drowned out in the mainstream media.

To get their perspective, NEA Today convened a panel of educators from around the country who were attending NEA’s Common Core Working Group in Denver, Colorado – a strategy- and ideas-sharing meeting of education professionals from the 46 states who have adopted Common Core. (Find out more about NEA’s involvement in the Common Core.) They told us there’s a lot of anxiety among educators about the Common Core, and a lot of unanswered questions. How do we best implement them? How do we train more teachers? How do we help students master the new content? And what about testing?

But despite these significant hurdles, the overwhelming consensus of the educators we heard from is that the Common Core will ultimately be good for students and education. Read on for six reasons why.

1. Common Core Puts Creativity Back in the Classroom

“I have problems and hands-on activities that I like my students to experience to help them understand a concept or relationship,” says Cambridge, Massachusetts, high school math teacher Peter Mili. One of his classic activities is taking a rectangular piece of cardboard and asking the students to cut from each corner to make a box. They learn that different sized boxes need different lengths in cuts, and then they fill the boxes with popcorn and measure how much each box can hold.

“I haven’t been able to do that in years because of the push to cover so many things. Time is tight, especially because of all the benchmarks and high-stakes testing,” Mili says. “So I’ve had to put the fun, creative activities aside to work on drill and skill. But the Common Core streamlines content, and with less to cover, I can enrich the experience, which gives my students a greater understanding.”

Mili says a lot of teachers have fun, creative activities stuffed into their closets or desk drawers because they haven’t had the time to use them in the era of NCLB tests and curriculum. He thinks the Common Core will allow those activities to again see the light of day. That’s because the Common Core State Standards are just that — standards and not a prescribed curriculum. They may tell educators what students should be able to do by the end of a grade or course, but it’s up to the educators to figure out how to deliver the instruction.

2. Common Core Gives Students a Deep Dive

When students can explore a concept and really immerse themselves in that content, they emerge with a full understanding that lasts well beyond testing season, says Kisha Davis-Caldwell, a fourth-grade teacher at a Maryland Title 1 elementary school.

“I’ve been faced with the challenge of having to teach roughly 100 math topics over the course of a single year,” says Davis-Caldwell. “The Common Core takes this smorgasbord of topics and removes things from the plate, allowing me to focus on key topics we know will form a clear and a consistent foundation for students.”

Davis-Caldwell’s students used to skim the surface of most mathematical topics, working on them for just a day or two before moving on to the next, whether they’d mastered the first concept or not.

“Students would go to the next concept frustrated, losing confidence and losing ground in the long haul,” she says. “The Common Core allows students to stay on a topic and not only dive deeply into it, but also be able to understand and apply the knowledge to everyday life.”

3. Common Core Ratchets up Rigor

The CCSS requires students to take part in their learning and to think more critically about content, as opposed to simply regurgitating back what their teachers feed them, says Kathy Powers, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade English Language Arts in Conway, Arkansas.

One way Powers says the standards ratchet up the rigor is by requiring more nonfiction texts to be included in lessons on works of fiction, and vice versa.

She uses Abraham Lincoln as an example.

A lesson could start with “O Captain! My Captain!”, the extended metaphor poem written by Walt Whitman about the death of Lincoln, and incorporate the historical novel Assassin, which includes a fictional character in the plot. Then she’d follow that with the nonfiction work, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, and have students also look at newspaper clippings from the time.

“Or if we’re working on narrative writing, I can have them read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and ask them not to just absorb the story, but also to evaluate C.S. Lewis as a writer, and then to try to write a piece of narrative in the style of C.S. Lewis,” she says. “In the past we’d ask them to simply write a story. But this requires more critical thinking, and this kind of increased rigor will make students more competitive on a global level.”

4. Common Core is Collaborative

The Common Core allows educators to take ownership of the curriculum — it puts it back into the hands of teachers, who know what information is best for students and how best to deliver that information.

“Not only does it integrate instruction with other disciplines, like English and social studies, or literacy, math, and science, the common standards will allow us to crowd source our knowledge and experience,” says Kathy Powers of Arkansas.

Kisha Davis-Caldwell agrees. “The Common Core will create opportunities to share resources and create common resources,” she says. “We can discuss what isn’t working and use our voices collectively. That way we can all be part of the conversation about assessment of teaching, learning, and the standards themselves.”

Peter Mili says the key word to focus on is “common.” He believes there is far too much academic variability from state to state and not enough collaboration. With the Common Core State Standards, “the good things that may be happening in Alabama can be shared and found useful to educators in Arizona because they are working on the same topics.”

5. Common Core Advances Equity

Cheryl Mosier, an Earth Science teacher from Colorado, says she’s most excited about the Common Core because it’ll be a challenge for all students, not just the high achieving students, which Mosier and her colleagues say will go a long way to closing achievement and opportunity gaps for poor and minority children. If students from all parts of the country — affluent, rural, low-income or urban — are being held to the same rigorous standards, it promotes equity in the quality of education and the level of achievement gained.

“With the Common Core, we’re not going to have pockets of really high performing kids in one area compared to another area where kids aren’t working on the same level,” she says “Everybody is going to have a high bar to meet, but it’s a bar that can be met with support from – and for — all teachers.”

Davis-Caldwell’s Title 1 school is in a Washington, D.C., suburb. In the D.C. metro area, like in other areas in and around our nation’s cities, there is a high rate of mobility among the poorest residents. Students regularly move from town to town, county to county, or even state to state – often in the middle of the school year.

There has been no alignment from state to state on what’s being taught, so when a fourth-grade student learning geometry and fractions in the first quarter of the school year suddenly moves to Kansas in the second quarter, he may have entirely different lessons to learn and be tested on.

It also helps teachers better serve their students, says Davis-Caldwell. When teachers in one grade level focus consistently and comprehensively on the most critical and fundamental concepts, their students move on to the next grade level able to build on that solid foundation rather than reviewing what should have been learned in the previous grade.

6. Common Core Gets Kids College Ready

“One of the broad goals is that the increased rigor of the Common Core will help everyone become college and/or career ready,” says Peter Mili. Preparing kids for college and careers will appeal widely to parents and the community, especially in a struggling economy where only 31 percent of eleventh graders were considered “college ready,” according to a recent ACT study.

If a student who was taught how to think critically and how to read texts for information and analysis can explain the premise behind a mathematical thesis, she’ll have options and opportunities, Mili says. Students with that kind of education will be able to decide what kind of career path to follow or whether they want to attend a university or any kind of school because they were prepared to do a higher level of work that is expected in our society and our economy.

Student success is the outcome every education professional works so tirelessly toward, and the Common Core will help them get there if it’s implemented well, according to the panel of educators.

“Yes, it’s an extra workload as a teacher, and it’s difficult…but it’s for the betterment of the students,” says Davis-Caldwell. “And if we keep that our focus, I don’t see why we can’t be successful.”

Related Post:
Ten Things You Should Know About the Common Core

NEA President Van Roekel: We Need a Course Correction on Common Core

Find Common Core resources on NEA Today’s Pinterest Board and at


88 Responses to “Six Ways the Common Core is Good For Students”
  1. Jennifer Fatone says:

    I am a teacher and union rep in NY, and I am disgusted by the NEA’s support for Corporate Core. There is no way of extracting any good from CC’s implementation from the standardized testing that goes along with it. CC is rife with developmentally inappropriate content, and it assumes all students have the same needs, interests, and abilities. CC assumes that the professionals – teachers – cannot discern what their students need. It is a monster that continues to grow with the support of the NEA, which is supposed to support TEACHERS, not the corporate agenda of those who seek to profitize American education.

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  2. Louisiana Purchase says:

    I don’t understand how a curriculum with extremely specific lists of things students should learn every year is allowing teachers teach “creatively.” Common Core is sham.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Susan Nunes says:

    Unbelievable Bill Gates has basically bought off NEA and AFT in his quest for the ruination of public education.

    There is NOTHING good about Common Core. Nothing. The United States is too large and too diverse for “national standards.” It’s time to bring back local control of public education and return education back to TEACHERS. The billionaires, Wall Street crooks, and their political hacks need to stay out.

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  4. Atara says:

    The NEA does not know what they are talking about here. CCSS will not work. The technology requirements can eat a school’s budget leaving nothing left for professional development the teachers will badly need to be able to implement CCSS properly. This is a big big mess. There are lots of problems with this country’s system of education, but a different curriculum to teach to a different test is not the answer.

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  5. KR says:

    I’m glad for our children first, teachers and nation that true educators that have known forever what is needed are speaking out! The powers that be don’t usually ask true opinions of honest educators (not talking heads for an organization) but our public schools are so ineffective due to years of politicians thinking they know what’s best without including educators or parents,that they recently make such overt and ignorant decisions like Common Core, testing-not teaching, creating a sense that special needs(including mentally challenged, autistic and gifted) and different learning styles do not need to be addressed differently so that we decrease the 70% number of students that are not “college ready” or work ready upon graduation. The four or rather 12 years of school, we tell our children they should just take what ever new trend in public education caves of underfunded, dilapidated buildings with educators that are respected less than dogs that have more rights than we do. The powers that be make sure we do not have time to think and be creative or gather to plan meaningful reforms by inundating us with paperwork, threats of losing pay or your job if testing scores aren’t increased, worries about micromanagement and long irrelevant to students progress meetings that survival to make it day to day is the only focus in able to survive. Absenteeism, disabilities and early retirements are another survival tactic to live a longer life. True educators must band together and fight and not give up for the sake of our children and our own mental health-our passion, “our calling”. We don’t want other careers, we spent time and are in debt for loans for a career we have passion for and it has been taken from us law by law, reform by reform, disrespectful children, lack of parenting at home and educational surveys and testing businesses have gotten rich on the backs of our teachers students and parents that have no idea who and what to believe and trust in that’s best for their child anymore. Charter schools aren’t the answer and parents know it but they can’t wait for public education to get it together at the sacrifice of their children’s future. Charters are a bandage on a hemorrhage and a way to segregate schools to increase the number of permanent underclass that will be the worker bees in poverty for the leaders with power that luckily can transport their children to a school without fights everyday (due to anger and neglect) and focus on those that come to school with a full stomach from breakfast, clear head since they don’t have to worry about mom making enough money to support the family or a dangerous neighborhood which keeps them in the house which increases mental and physical health issues that increase problems in the family. We must address the child holistically and address new millennial problems and not sweep them under the rug because it’s uncomfortable to discuss. Our changing population and culture cannot be ignored without all of us reaping the consequences, now or later, but it’s coming to the privileges’s front door no matter how far they move away…

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  6. Ragua says:

    Um…why am I paying you union dues, again? So you can sell us all down the river to your corporate overlords? You do realize that prostitution is illegal in every state except Nevada, right?

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  7. I find it very fascinating to hear the various opinions about the Common Core. I, myself, am open to implementing it into my classroom. My district is in the beginning stages of training their teachers. But I have already begun researching the standards to help me become better acquainted with the concept. I even wrote a hilarious early chapter book series to lighten up the tension surrounding the Common Core. The book is titled, Beware of the Common Core. The concept of the book was developed behind the notion of “fear of the unknown” and that the core standards shouldn’t be anything to fear, but embrace. I’m looking forward to seeing the changes Common Core will bring about. It can’t make me a worse teacher, only stronger in my craft as I make it work for me and my students.

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  8. Stacy Amador says:

    Wow. I am really shocked to read this article. The information here is an outright lie. Common Core gives teachers more time to be creative? Common Core puts things back in the hands of teachers? Whoever wrote this doesn’t have a clue. I have seen first hand what Common Core does to a classroom as well as individual students because I have two children in grade school. Common Core has put so much pressure on teachers to get the children ready for the standardized testing that becomes all they have time for. This article is totally backwards. My daughter has said to me that she thinks she is stupid because she just doesn’t get the math. She cries and doesn’t want to go to school anymore. She is a very intelligent child. She brings home math papers with check minuses that have all the answers correct!She failed the test/homework because she didn’t draw the bar models correctly. So it makes no difference if she had the right answers. In addition to Common Core hurting our children mentally/developmentally what about the financial aspect? States were in such a rush to get all of that federal money they didn’t stop to read the fine print!! When Common Core deadlines are up the schools will have to have 1 computer per child which is required for all of the testing that you stated was not required! Companies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Intel are behind the funding for Common Core! That’s not a conflict of interest or anything! The millions that they have invested will likely be returned 5 fold when every school district across the country has to purchase a computer for each student! I only hope that as Americans and Parents we all decide to at least take the time to research both sides of this and let common sense prevail!

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  9. jay says:

    This is a BS system that does nothing but dumb down America. Call me what you want but this is all planned to keep control of America. Keep us dumb enough to were the government can control us

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  10. Steinar Johansen says:

    Check where we are internationally and see how we keep falling behind. Tutoring two A students who are follow the old procedural way of teaching are not A student. Every time I ask them to explain why they do not have any answers. I give them a formula and the numbers and they can tweak it is all direction because they know a procedure for it. When I ask then why or give them any challenges they get lost immediately.
    Common core is absolutely the right way to go. It gives me as a future teacher the opportunity to teach into the depth instead of just offering recipes on how to solve a problem. One post talked about how his daughter all for a sudden feel stupid in math. That is because the kid do not understand math and she is not going to be college ready if she is not able to understand the concept behind math. Lets all support Common core. If your kid feel stupid it is because they are and they need to study more. When they understand the concept they will do fine. Have a good common core implementation in your school district

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  11. Felicia says:

    As a middle school math teacher who is in the process of implementing Common Core standards, I am seeing first hand this is exactly the right approach for our young students. The Core allows for in-depth study of math concepts, collaborative work on the part of students, and solving real world math problems. There is less emphasis on only process and more on creative problem solving and rigor. Students are responding and learning at much higher levels than with old school lessons. I am in an average small community where traditional methods were leaving students behind. This is a breath of fresh air. Students are enjoying math and learning so much more. Because the Common Core scales back the number of topics for each level, it allows for a more in-depth approach with a great deal of creativity and flexibility on the part of teachers. Why would you want to keep a curriculum that is rooted in the 1950s for our 21st century kids? I admit there is an overemphasis on standardized testing, but that is not because of Common Core. Common Core is the framework for building your curriculum. Standardized tests are a separate issue. They have been part of education forever, no matter what curriculum a district chooses. If you want to get mad about something, get mad about standardized testing and the disservice this does to our students.

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  12. Megan says:

    Dear Editor,
    The modern idea known as “Common Core”is a shabby scam. This article states the positive effects Common Core has had on the educational environment grades one through twelve are exposed to . One of the main points I came across was,”Common Core puts creativity back into the classrooms.” I myself attend a high school where Common Core curriculum is currently taught. My fellow classmates and I are taught an unreasonable amount of material in less than 30 weeks. Meaning, this doesn’t leave time for creativity in the class room. Common Core is a one-type-taught policy. This meaning that every student is taught, and learns exactly the same. High schools across America require a certain amount of credits, in each subject to graduate. This prohibits students from excelling in certain areas they have potential to achieve in dramatically. Another main point I came across was that, “the challenge of Common Core is good for students.” I have learned that the so called “challenge” consist of learning material that I will soon forget in the next year. Common Core is putting chains on the mind of students, and teaching material that is invaluable in many cases. Students should be allowed to choose their own educational routes without state standards telling students step-by-step what path they are to follow. I propose students should be exposed to an education system that teaches life-long-skills needed in the real world. Students should have the open option to pick and choose their own classes that will be beneficial to them throughout their years of studies, and life.

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  13. Shelley Burgess says:

    Well, I do not know WHY asking a child to dig deeper and UNDERSTAND what they are reading and writing is “dummying down” education …. REALLY??

    The standards are JUST THAT! I get to decided what literature/nonfiction to teach and HOW to teach it. I am not being MANDATED to teach any specific TOPIC or CONTENT that tells my kids HOW to view a specific political view … however it IS ALLOWING me to teach BOTH sides of a political view that a TEXT BOOK does not allow, and provide my students RESEARCHED BASED knowledge to make up their own mind!! (ex – Christopher Columbus) Seriously people … get a grip and do your
    OWN research – stop listening to everyone that is so freakin’ negative about CC …. It means more work for teachers to develop units that allow students to DISCOVER the world they live in … I think THAT is the real problem … LAZY TEACHERS!!!! And those lazy teachers misinforming parents … NOW we have all this negative crap floating around that is hyping up more negative people.

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  14. I think changing from Common Core is ridiculous.. School has already started and teachers have made their plans. These stupid legislators have NO IDEA about the curriculum. Let the teachers decide and certainly wait until there is plenty of time to hear from the teachers!!!
    The Federal government is NOT taking over our education, but there are some tea party groups that want to privatize our public education!! BEWARE

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