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Making Sense of Common-Core Resistance


Brad Clark

It's not shocking that so many adults in the United States shy away from the phrase "Common core." The name connotes conspiracy theories, political talk shows (and screaming), and 140-character Twitter arguments. According to a recent poll, 60 percent of U.S. adults oppose the Common Core State Standards. 

But of those 60%, how many do you suppose have heard or seen a common-core success story? 

In Kentucky, where I teach, common-core success stories are the norm.  I know teachers in dozens of states—and all of them have these stories. 

So why are these positive perspectives rarely a part of our national conversation?

The reality is that nearly 60 percent of Americans don't know what the Common Core State Standards are. Part of the confusion comes from being bombarded with myths and anti-common-core messaging that misstate the purpose, origin, and impact of the standards. But the public's pushback against the standards seems to be in name only: Two separate surveys over the past year have shown that 73 percent of Americans support the idea of a having a single set of common standards and 66 percent support having uniform standards

Having high standards for students is not the problem. Having high standards that most states can agree on is also not the problem. 

The true issue that we, as a nation, have to address is that almost half of the country's teachers feel ill-prepared to teach the standards. In this context, it's of little surprise that teacher support for the standards have recently slipped. 

When teachers are not given the necessary support, time, or freedom to explore standards implementation in their classroom, the result is tangible frustration—which hurts teachers and students alike. 

Being a teacher is a complex, difficult job. We must find ways to design support systems for teachers that capitalize on these rigorous standards. There's good reason why 65 percent of American teachers believe that the Common Core standards will improve student learning.   

Here are a few ways that districts and states can support teachers in implementing the standards:

  • Give teachers the opportunity to be reflective instructional designers—without fear of compliance-driven, canned curriculum usurping their instruction.
  • Provide meaningful, data-driven, teacher-led professional-learning opportunities that promote continual growth.  
  • Make time for teachers to design learning experiences that truly respond to the needs of the students and classrooms they serve. 

The Common Core State Standards, when successfully implemented by teachers, are not controversial. They are common sense. They are not the end goal or a magic pill, but a logical first step towards rethinking how we design student learning.

Read all the entries in our latest Teaching Ahead roundtable discussion.

Brad Clark is a language arts and social studies teacher in Woodford County, Ky. He is a state fellow with the Hope Street Group and virtual community organizer with the Center for Teaching Quality.
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