The education community has a habit of using terms or phrases with the assumption that everyone understands them as well as they do. One example is Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Educators across the country have been working hard to implement CCSS and there appears to be general consensus of support for them. However, there have also been myths about what they are and how they impact students. I am using information published by the Michigan Department of Education and provided by the Michigan Association of School Boards to dispel some of those myths and help parents and citizens understand CCSS.
Myth: The standards tell teachers what to teach.
Fact:These standards will establish what students will need to learn, they will not dictate how teachers should teach. Instead, schools and teachers will decide how best to help students reach the standards.
Myth: The standards only include skills and do not address the importance of content knowledge.
Fact: International benchmarking played a significant role in both mathematics and English language arts. The standards recognize that both content and skills are important.
Myth: The standards will be implemented through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — signifying the federal government will be leading them.
Fact: The CCSS is a state-led voluntary effort that is not a requirement of NCLB and the adoption of the standards is in no way mandatory. States began the work to create clear, consistent standards before the Recovery Act or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act blueprint were released because this work is being driven by the needs of the states, not the federal government.
Myth: These standards amount to a national curriculum for our schools.
Fact: These standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed.
Myth: The CCSS are expensive to implement because of the price of professional development, aligning curriculum with the standards and technology infrastructure upgrades.
Fact: In Michigan, the demand for an educated workforce and the focus on improving schools are driving the demands for professional development and technology infrastructure.
Aligning and updating curriculum is the responsibility of schools regardless of the standards used. The fact that multiple states are aligning to operate the same set of standards provides states the opportunity to share resources, instructional materials and professional development for teachers and administrators, resulting in economies of scale not possible before.
Action is needed now
It is important that we quickly become informed about CCSS because next week, the Senate will be voting on a general omnibus budget bill that could effectively prohibit Michigan from participating in the CCSS initiative. This language was inserted into the budget without ANY testimony or public input, or any consideration of the cost of students and schools.
It is time to tell our legislators that this kind of legislative activity will not be tolerated. We have a right to expect that decisions of this magnitude will be carefully considered and openly discussed with ample opportunity for input from those whom they will impact. In order for students to compete in a knowledge-based, global economy, Michigan needs consistent standards that will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students. Our schools are now three years and millions of dollars down the road toward adopting the CCSS. Changing course now will put our students and schools at a severe disadvantage that could last for years.
Janet Ralph is president of the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education.