What you need to know about COMMON CORE: What it means for kids and whether it’s really anti-Christian.
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Recently I saw yet another Facebook post making its rounds from a parent who was frustrated by the Common Core. In this latest circle, the parent posted a sample of a math test his child had taken and exclaimed that even with a college degree, he had trouble understanding how his son was supposed to solve the problem. More than that, the parent didn’t understand why his son needed to use multiple steps to solve a simple subtraction problem. By the time I saw it in my newsfeed, the post had received more than 300,000 comments. The Common Core debate has finally reached almost the entire country on some level, and this Facebook post is just one example of the sincere frustration many parents, teachers, administrators, and children feel. Never in recent memory has an educational set of standards sparked such highly charged discussion from such a variety of stakeholders. As such, it’s important to understand a bit about these new standards, as well as whether it really is anti-Christian as many proclaim.
A Simple Definition
The Common Core State Standards are a set of academic standards for English language arts and mathematics for kindergarten through 12th grade. These standards were developed through a consortium of states, including their governors and state commissioners of education, as a way to help children become college- and career ready for the 21st century. While other content areas have also recently reshaped their standards (including science, social studies, and the arts), these subjects don’t fall under the umbrella of Common Core .
So what does all that mean? Essentially, the standards were developed to determine what children at each grade level should be able to do in reading and math before moving on to the next grade level. The intention was to even the playing field for a more equitable education for all children. Prior to Common Core, every state developed its own set of expectations for what children should be able to do in each grade. This created a problem: If a child moved from one state to another, there were likely gaps in learning or the expectations may’ve been totally different. By creating a common set of standards that would be used from state to state, the idea was to reduce or eliminate this disparity.
The Common Core State Standards are simply a set of expectations for what children should be able to know and do at each grade level. They aren’t a curriculum. In education, curriculum provides educators with suggestions for how to teach a set of standards, assignments for units or lessons, and assessments and materials that should be used to teach each course. Standards only provide what children are expected to learn, not how to learn it.
This is an important distinction. Many faith-based leaders are concerned that Common Core equals anti-Christian. This is simply untrue. The standards don’t dismiss, negate, or attack Christian beliefs. Instead, they simply identify what children need to know and be able to do. Additionally, any reports of anti-Christian content being taught through history or in science classes have nothing to do with Common Core State Standards, as these subjects aren’t a part of Common Core. The implementation of all standards is completely driven by state and local school districts.
Implementation Gone Awry
One thing most people can agree on when it comes to Common Core is that the implementation of the standards has been disappointing at best and dismal at worst. Like so many things in education, there was a rush to move these standards into schools. Common Core was developed quickly and states adopting the standards had to have them fully implemented in kindergarten through 12th grade within three years. For most districts, this meant either completely rewriting or purchasing entirely new English/language arts and math curriculum as well as training all their teachers in the expectations of the new standards and in how to teach new curriculum. This proved to be almost impossible on the established timeline for several reasons.