Optimism from educators, researchers on the Common Core

The Common Core academic standards—gearing up this year and next, and to be fully implemented by 2014-15—represent an overhaul in how teachers teach and how students learn. The new learning standards in English language arts and math will stress students’ reasoning and analytical skills—considered by many educators and researchers to be an improvement compared to how educating students has been done in recent times.

Consider the mounting evidence that the Common Core will be a change—if not a “monumental shift”—that pushes education in the right direction for the Buckeye State.

  • Peggy Marrs, a Common Core coach for Cincinnati Public Schools, quipped that under the Common Core, students are “going to be reasoning with themselves and with others in groups. They’ll be judging one another’s conclusions and solutions…They’re going to be analyzing and justifying answers.”
  • Ellen Gorman, an eighth-grade math teacher at West Clermont School District, said that under the Common Core “[t]he focus has been shifted, to having students think about how they got their answer and be able to explain their process.”
  • Mark Farmer, Northwest Local School’s (Hamilton County) assistant superintendent of curriculum, remarked that “These new standards require our kids to do research, to look up sources and think about them, make an opinion and put it in writing in a clear way.”

And, a growing number of educator surveys show the support that the Common Core has in the field:

  • The EPE Research Center found that 49 percent of teachers rated the Common Core superior to current standards; another 44 percent said the Common Core are about the same.
  • The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University survey found that 81 percent of teacher thought that the Common Core was “extremely important” to provide a “high quality education.”
  • Chiefs for Change found that 73 percent of teachers held a favorable view of the Common Core and that 77 percent of teachers are already teaching to the new standards.
  • The Fordham Institute (to be published in May) found that 68 percent of Ohio district superintendents think that the Common Core will lead to “fundamental improvement” in K-12 education.

Finally, the research on the Common Core indicates that it will raise expectations and demand more of students:

  • Sheila Byrd Carmichael and Stephen Wilson found the Common Core to be superior to 37 states’ standards in English and 39 states in math, including Ohio’s. The Common Core standards, according to the report (commissioned by Fordham), “are ambitious and challenging for students and educators alike.”
  • Andrew Porter found that the Common Core emphasizes higher order cognitive skills, meaning that students will have to analyze and draw conclusions from mathematical analyses and careful readings of texts. (The trade-off, Porter found, was that the Common Core standards place less emphasis on rote memorization and procedural knowledge.) Porter concludes that the Common Core represent a change for the better—especially if higher-order skills are the educational objective.
  • Paul Cobb and Kara Jackson found that the Common Core math standards form a coherent learning progression for students as they climb the K-12 ladder. The coherent organization of the Common Core math standards suggests to them that they are a “major advance over most if not all state mathematics standards.”
  • William Schmidt and Richard Houang found that the Common Core math standards are consistent with the learning standards of the world’s top-performing countries. The standards, according to this study, follow the “logical organization” of mathematics—that is, they are coherent. And, the study found that the Common Core reduces the number of topics to be taught in each grade—that is, they’re focused.[i]

Bill Schmidt summarizes his research saying that “we finally have standards that are comparable to what the top-achieving countries have.” And, we at Fordham agree with Schmidt and the educators out in the field—the Common Core standards are fewer, higher, and deeper, and as such, are worthy of support.




[i] Interestingly, Porter (2011), using a different research method, draws less conclusive findings on whether the Common Core math standards have greater “focus” than Schmidt and Houang.

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