Because it’s new or because it challenges the current education system, Common Core has been met with a wave of hesitation. There are people who feel strongly on both sides of the argument, and it can be difficult to differentiate facts from hearsay. Let’s look at some of the misconceptions surrounding education reform and determine whether or not there is any truth to them.
Myth #1: Common Core assessments are deliberately unpassable.
Fact: While the standards are much more rigorous than the benchmarks that many states have relied on in the past, the end-of-course assessments are not designed to trick students. The point of Common Core is to challenge students to go beyond their normal level of comprehension, deepening their understanding of crucial life skills. Because they are not what the teachers and students are used to, the test scores may see a drop initially, but once the standards have made their way into the tradition the students will improve their performance on the exams.
Myth #2: The Common Core Standards are required for all states.
Fact: States have a choice whether or not they want to implement these new standards within their schools. In fact, a few states have already decided publically that they do not want to foster a relationship with Common Core. If a state does decide to join these standards, they only have to agree to maintain 85% of them. The other 15% can be altered as school administrators see fit. Once the Common Core Standards are adopted, the federal government plays a relatively small role in their administration. The creative responsibility stays at the local level.
Myth #3: The Common Core Standards take the focus away from literature.
Fact: Many English teachers are unhappy with the emphasis of reading comprehension being shifted toward nonfiction text. This in no way means that fiction isn’t also valuable in the classroom. The main focus of Common Core is placed on the skills, rather than the material. So, many of the stylistic choices still remain in the hands of the individual teachers. As Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University and a key member of a Common Core K-12 Standards Development Team, states, “If you care about the English literary tradition, and if you think that these books… form an inherent tradition that is an essential part of being an American, of our patrimony, our history, our values, you will put it on the syllabus.”
Myth #4: Teachers will be asked to teach material outside of their content area.
Fact: This is true to some extent, but in a much less exaggerate way than many people seem to understand it. Common Core Standards focus on interdisciplinary studies, meaning that teaching should address similar issues and skills across all areas of a student’s learning. English teachers with need to incorporate nonfiction texts that encompass a variety of topics, but many of them are already doing so. The thought process behind this is that life outside of high school is not as clearly categorized as schools are. There is not always a clear line between English and history, between science and mathematics. Students need to be equipped with a skillset that can be useful in a variety of settings.