Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Why The Common Core Might Not Be Classroom-Ready

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A teacher in a South Bend classroom.

If there’s one thing supporters of the Common Core — a nationwide slate of academic standards being phased into Indiana’s classrooms — like to tout, it’s the standards’ game-changing potential.

They say, under the Common Core, students will have an educational experience that will both better prepare them for college and careers, and that might even be more rigorous than it was under the state-level standards.

But standards are only expectations for what students need to know. Educators need training and tools to implement the Common Core in a school’s curriculum, those supporters say.

Such a nationwide professional development effort could cost billions and, as EdWeek‘s Stephen Sawchuk writes, could also be the Common Core’s Achilles heel:

A quiet, sub-rosa fear is brewing among supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: that the standards will die the slow death of poor implementation in K-12 classrooms.

“I predict the common-core standards will fail, unless we can do massive professional development for teachers,” said Hung-Hsi Wu, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written extensively about the Common Core math standards. “There’s no fast track to this.”

It’s a Herculean task, given the size of the public school teaching force and the difficulty educators face in creating the sustained, intensive training that research indicates is necessary to change teachers’ practices…

A nationally representative survey of school districts issued last fall by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy found that fewer than half of districts had planned professional development aligned to the standards this school year.

It’s just like The Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst told StateImpact two weeks ago: Setting new academic standards “doesn’t mean teachers know how to teach [kids] that stuff, or that they have good instructional materials.”

Kathleen Porter-Magee, a Common Core blogger for the Fordham Institute (she and her colleagues support the standards), says educators are hearing mixed messages about what professional development they need. But since Porter-Magee’s conversation with StateImpact, she says critiques of the Common Core have taken on an “hyperbolic” tone.

“In this increasingly toxic environment, Common Core has become one more conspiracy to uncover, one more grand scheme for the fringe on the right and left to fight against,” Porter-Magee writes on Fordham’s Common Core Watch.

Any educators out there who can confirm what EdWeek is reporting — a “quiet, sub-rosa fear,” or confusion about the Common Core’s implementation? What do you make of that report?


  • Darren Burris

    I disagreed with the report, but recognize that fear can abound. I hope fear will be accompanied by hope and willingness to overcome that fear. My take is in the Hechinger Report:

  • Jenny Robinson

    This page from United Opt Out details the education company Pearson’s many links to legislation from which it benefits. Here’s a key quote: “The legislation forced upon states to adopt the curriculum (i.e., the Common Core) and its required testing measures (i.e., PARCC) essentially eliminates the possibility of consumer choice (supposedly a key concept in free market ideology) and requires that taxpayer dollars for education be handed over to Pearson and McGraw-Hill as the sole providers of nearly all educational resources available to the schools.”

  • grademangler

    Teachers can teach the core standards and having previewed them at the elementary level, I see few differences between the state and core standards. There seem to be fewer concepts leaving more time for students to actually understand and apply what they are learning. Teachers have tried to do this with state standards, but with the myriad of concepts needing to be covered in a year they barely had time to teach e3ach concept, let alone give time to applying it. I found this especially true with the math standards.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      My understanding is that the state’s standards are too specific? Detailed? ……Nitpicky? Is that how you’d characterize it?

  • Paige Williams

    I still say that the biggest concern with the Common Core is the fact that not every state in the union is operating at the same education level. Yes, yes, that’s what the Common Core is supposed to correct, but come on! Do we really expect to implement this in every grade and have everyone suddenly passing on Day 1? That 12th graders in places like Tennessee and Alabama to be able to do the same work as 12th graders in places like New York? I don’t think so! The lower elementary students are the only ones who stand a possible chance of benefitting from this. Everyone else is just gonna flunk right out.

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