If you want to become a teacher, chances are you’ll need to teach your students according to Common Core standards. These were adopted about ten years ago, during a big push to standardize teaching standards across states, both in an effort to help American students stop lagging behind their peers on international aptitude tests, and also to ensure that students across the country graduate from high school prepared for college and work.
Forty-six states initially adopted Common Core standards for K-12 classrooms, and although some have since abandoned them, the majority of states still use Common Core standards. Even if they don’t, they may still use teaching techniques and tools that draw on Common Core methods.
Under Common Core standards, students are expected to develop better critical thinking skills, and better learn to support arguments with evidence in their writing. Common Core methods focus on familiarizing kids with the foundational ideas behind mathematical and language arts concepts, so they can develop the strong critical thinking, language arts, and math skills they’ll need for higher education and careers.
Common Core Standards Are Based on Evidence
Common core standards have been controversial in many states, which is a big part of the reason why they were adopted and then abandoned in some states, where parents, teachers, and activists have raised concerns about the standards. But Common Core standards prevail in the vast majority of states because they’re based on research and evidence. Even those states that have rejected Common Core standards have agreed to hold their students to the higher national standards emphasized in the push for Common Core.
Starting from early elementary school, Common Core standards seek to give kids a solid foundation of core concepts and procedures that will later help them develop mastery of difficult concepts in areas like mathematics and language arts, where American kids tend to fall behind on the international level and where they’re most likely to be unprepared for college or careers upon high school graduation. These standards are developed from international educational models and with evidence and input from educators at all levels, state departments of education, test developers, education scholars, and more.
Kids Learn Critical Thinking and Move Beyond Rote Memorization
Common Core standards are intended to make sure kids all over the country graduate from high school with the same skills and aptitudes in key areas like math and language arts. Public education curriculums tend to be left to the purview of local school districts and state boards of education, so, before Common Core, standards varied wildly and kids from different school districts or states graduated from high school with different levels of competency in language arts, math, science, and other important topics.
Kids of previous generations learned skills largely through rote memorization. Remember learning your times tables in grade school? Today’s kids learn math skills according to Common Core standards, which seek to get kids comfortable with the underlying concepts behind standard mathematical operations. That’s why Common Core math problems look so weird. In addition to teaching students to solve math problems using the standard algorithms that may look familiar to parents, Common Core standards also use visual representations to teach kids how numbers work — by encouraging them to think of large numbers in terms of tens, for example, or by underpinning an understanding of addition and subtraction by teaching students to think of these problems in terms of the distance between two numbers.
In language arts, students are exposed to more nonfiction and learn to back up arguments with evidence. Common Core standards emphasize teaching students close reading skills that will allow them to uncover layers of meaning within a text, and extract information from the text independently, and without much hand-holding or outside research. It goes beyond teaching kids to read and to understand an author’s message, and asks them to think critically about texts and learn to evaluate their veracity and value by analyzing the author’s intentions, perspective, and tone. Students are asked to read and reread texts, evaluating them in depth.
Common Core standards look like they’re here to stay, and that could be good news for students. The first generation of students taught with Common Core standards are beginning to show that, at least in some areas, the standards are working. With the help of dedicated educators, the next generation of Americans will grow up with the critical thinking and STEM skills needed to succeed in adult life.