The full implementation of the Common Core State Standards has come and gone, but its true impact on schools and education as a whole may still not be known for several years. Certainly, the shift to a national set of standards has been revolutionary and highly controversial. They have been debated and well discussed, and a handful of states once committed to the standards have recanted to go in a different direction. As the media continues to evaluate the significance of the Common Core and data from Common Core states begin to pour in, you can bet the debate will rage on. In the meantime, let’s examine several of the pros and cons of the Common Core Standards that will continue to lead the debate.
Pros of Common Core
- International Benchmark. The Common Core State Standards are internationally benchmarked. This means that our standards will compare favorably to standards of other countries. This is positive in that the United States has dropped considerably in educational rankings over the last few decades. Standards that are internationally benchmarked can help improve that ranking.
- States’ Performance Can Be Compared Accurately. The Common Core State Standards allow states to compare standardized test scores accurately. Up until the Common Core Standards, each state had its own set of standards and assessments. This made it exceedingly difficult to compare one state’s results accurately with another state’s results. This is no longer the case with like standards and assessments for Common Core states who share the same assessments.
- Lower Costs for Test Development. The Common Core State Standards decrease the costs states pay for test development, scoring, and reporting, as individual states will no longer have to pay to have their unique tools developed. Each of the states that share the same standards can develop a like test to meet their needs and split costs. Currently, there are two major Common Core-related testing consortia. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is made up of 25 states and PARCC consists of 21 states.
- College Readiness. The Common Core Standards increase the rigor in some classrooms and may better prepare students for college and global work success. This is probably the single biggest reason that the Common Core Standards were created. Higher education has long complained that more and more students need remediation at the beginning of college. The increased rigor should lead students to be better prepared for life after high school.
- Higher Thinking Skills. The Common Core State Standards—arguably—lead to the development of higher-level thinking skills in our students. Students today often are tested on one skill at a time. The Common Core assessment will cover several skills within each question. This will ultimately lead to better problem-solving skills and increased reasoning.
- Progress Monitoring Tools. The Common Core State Standards assessments give teachers a tool to monitor students’ progress throughout the year. The assessments will have optional pre-test and progress monitoring tools that teachers can use to find out what a student knows, where they are going, and to figure out a plan to get them where they need to be. This gives teachers an avenue to compare an individual student’s progress instead of one student against another.
- Multi-Assessment Model. The Common Core State Standards assessments are more authentic to a child’s learning experience. We will be able to see what a student has learned across all curricula through the multi-assessment model. Students will no longer simply be allowed to come up with the right answer. Often times they must give an answer, state how they arrived at that conclusion, and defend it.
- Same Standards Across States. The Common Core State Standards can benefit students with high mobility when they transfer from one Common Core state into another. States will now share the same set of standards. Students in Arkansas should be learning the same thing as a student in New York. This will benefit students whose families move constantly.
- Stability. The Common Core State Standards give students stability, thus allowing them to understand what is expected of them. This is important in that if a student understands what, and why they are learning something, there becomes a greater sense of purpose behind learning it.
- Teacher Collaboration. In many ways, the Common Core State Standards enhance teacher collaboration and professional development. Teachers across the nation have been teaching the same curriculum. This allows teachers in opposite corners of the nation to share their best practices with each other and apply it. It also provides the opportunity for meaningful professional development as the education community is all on the same page. Finally, the standards have sparked a meaningful, nationwide conversation about the state of education in general.
Cons of Common Core
- Difficult Transition. The Common Core State Standards have been a tremendously difficult adjustment for students and teachers. It was not the way many teachers were used to teaching and not the way that many students were used to learning. There have not been instant results but instead, has been a slow process with many almost refusing to get on board.
- Educator Attrition. The Common Core State Standards have caused many outstanding teachers and administrators to pursue other career options. Many veteran teachers have retired rather than adjust the way they teach. The stress of getting their students to perform will likely continue to cause more teacher and administrator burnout.
- Too Vague. The Common Core State Standards are vague and broad. The standards are not particularly specific, but many states have been able to deconstruct or unwrap the standards making them more teacher friendly.
- Increased Rigor for Some States. The Common Core State Standards have forced younger students to learn more at a quicker pace than they ever have before. With the increased rigor and higher level thinking skills, early childhood programs have become more rigid. Pre-Kindergarten has become more important, and skills students used to learn in second grade are being taught in Kindergarten.
- Lack of Modifications for Students With Special Needs. The Common Core State Standards assessment does not have an equivalency test for students with special needs. Many states provide students with special needs a modified version of a test, but there is no such tool for the Common Core Standards. The entire school’s population have their results reported for accountability purposes.
- Less Rigorous Than Some Previous Standards. The Common Core State Standards could be watered down when compared to a few states who had previously developed and adopted rigorous standards. The Common Core Standards were designed as a middle ground of the current state standards, meaning that while many states’ standards were raised, there were some whose rigor decreased.
- Costly Material. The Common Core State Standards caused many textbooks to become obsolete. This was a pricey fix as many schools had to develop or purchase new curricula and materials that were aligned to the Common Core.
- Technology Costs. The Common Core State Standards costs schools a lot of money to update the technology needed for the assessments, as most of them are online. This created many issues for districts who had to purchase enough computers for all students to be assessed in a timely manner.
- Focus on Standardized Testing. The Common Core State Standards have led to an increased value on standardized test performance. High stakes testing is already a trending issue, and now that states are able to compare their performance against other states accurately, the stakes have only become higher.
- Limited Subject Scope. The Common Core State Standards currently only include skills associated with English-Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. There is currently no science, social studies, or art/music Common Core Standards. This leaves it up to individual states to develop their own set of standards and assessments for these topics.