Common Core: A cause for concern?

A student at Montalvin Manor Elementary School in San Pablo, California solves a problem according to Common Core curriculum standards. KRISTOPHER SKINNER | MCT CAMPUS
A student at Montalvin Manor Elementary School in San Pablo, California solves a problem according to Common Core curriculum standards. KRISTOPHER SKINNER | MCT CAMPUS

The Common Core is exactly that, common. It’s meant to level the playing field, and claims to be raising the bar for students nationwide by giving them the necessary tools to succeed in college and beyond.

Not every student will rise to the challenge, and some will exceed beyond it and become bored. However, every student learns differently, and every teacher teaches differently. The Common Core is a game of averages in an educational system where students are everything but.

The federal guidelines that came out in 2010 are now beginning to get some negative attention from senators, teachers and parents across the country as the system is slowly being implemented into schools. Supporters of the Common Core think it will bring the United States to a similar educational level as other high-ranking international education systems, and that it includes everything students in grades K-12 need to be successful. Those not in favor of the Common Core curriculum tend to point out the difficult transition into the program that students face, as well as the high costs associated with modernizing the classroom with the necessary technology.

Even though an education can be considered a major step in how one succeeds in life, it cannot change who a person is and the choices they will make. In a sociology class in spring 2013, my professor asked us how a good education could be characterized. Test scores, graduation rates and lifetime income levels are all standard markers for success these days.

Again, this is a game of averages, where the average income of a college grad is higher than that of a college dropout. So does this mean we should all be taught the same?

While everyone deserves a good education, a universal education isn’t what is best for everyone. In Illinois, the Common Core is being implemented in all public schools, but several publications regarding the new standards have been vague and don’t give a clear picture of what exactly is going to be changed.

According to Fox News, “states will spend up to an estimated $10 billion up front, then as much as $800 million per year for the first seven years that the controversial program is up and running. Much of the cost is on new, Common Core-aligned textbooks and curriculum, but the added expenses also include teacher training, technology upgrades, testing and assessment.”

But with all this money being poured into Common Core, there has yet to be a clear answer as to what will be different from five years ago. Parents are now concerned that their children won’t be able to keep up with the Common Core material, and that their 7-year-old won’t be able to pass the tests and exams that are coming their way to ensure that they are on par. Maybe it’s just going to take some time to see the effects of the Common Core, but right now it seems to be limiting creativity, setting a vague standard for students and teachers while also relying too heavily on test results.

Ideally, the system is meant to, “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them,” according to the Common Core website. It’s obvious that it will take time to see how exactly this plays out for students and teachers, and if it really will boost GPAs and SAT scores. Expectations aren’t always the greatest motivational tool, but the motivation of teachers and students will have the ability to really change the face of education.