Common Core 101

The Common Core State Initiative was adopted by South Carolina in 2010 without much fanfare. Its goal is to create standards for learning and testing that are uniform across the nation. Under Common Core guidelines, a student in Boise, Ida. who moved to Atlanta would pretty much pick up where she left off in her Boise classroom. That’s important to today’s mobile society. Over the last 30 years, standards have been adopted for Math and English/Language Arts classes in 45 states in an effort to address specific points.

First is the recognition that the United States, while an international superpower, has been unable to compete globally in the math and science arena. This has meant a shortage for U.S. based business ventures when seeking qualified job applicants. Second has been the need to address the sheer size of the U.S. and the mobility of its citizens.

To remedy this problem, a group of state governors and business CEO’s began meeting to address deficiencies in entry level employees’ skill sets. Education First’s educational consultants merged with the governors and business folks and by 1996 the group Achieve, Inc. was established and recognized according to their own press as a “leading advocacy organization for standard-based reform of the nation’s primary and secondary education system with a target of increasing rigor and driving increased college and career-ready graduation.”

Achieve, Inc., based out of Washington, D.C., has consistently touted themselves as the drivers of Common Core and distanced the standards as not being nationally driven but as being in the control of individual states and school districts. This has been met with considerable skepticism for several reasons. First has been their proximity and inter-personal relationship to the nation’s capital. Second, as influential crafters of the Common Core Standards, Achieve, Inc. is heavily involved in developing and profiting from the testing of the standards. The standards effort has never been without its pros and cons.

Closer home, this coming year is the last ‘practice’ year for teachers in Richland 2 to understand what is required of them under Common Core guidelines and to give students the chance to become familiar with how the test will be administered. This past year kindergarten through second-grade teachers have familiarized themselves with the standards that have been described by many to involve fewer standards, but with each standard being deeper in content with more opportunity for dialogue with students. In the coming year, Richland 2 will introduce Common Core into the older grades.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks we will discuss the specifics of Common Core in Richland 2, the concerns of protesters and supporters and the projected outcome for different kinds of students. There are many points to ferret out as we reach some conclusions.

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