The Common Core State Standards are under a lot of criticism from opponents, much of which is due to what they consider questionable curriculum content. Advocates of the Common Core, however, press the point that curriculum and standards are separate issues.
The confusion is understandable as parents are seeing “common core aligned” on the materials they find questionable.
What Does It Mean for a Curriculum to ‘Align’ with the Common Core?
The Common Core Standards are a set of standards which define the educational outcomes for students across all grade levels in math and reading language arts. In order to achieve these outcomes, teachers must utilize materials which align with the standards. Here is a simplified example:
Outcome: list all the names of the states and state capitals in the United States.
In order to accomplish this, the teacher needs to use labeled maps and various activities that reinforce the names of the states and state capitals. The materials should include all the states, not just a few of them, and it must include state capitals, not just the state names.
So curricula that states that it is “common core aligned” should in theory include all information necessary for students to learn the information listed in the common core standards. This curriculum is not endorsed by or included in the standards; it is simply a means to an end, provided by various curriculum developers.
Curriculum Choices Flood the Market With Little Time or Money to Choose
Critics note that the problem with wide-sweeping new standards is that school systems must update curriculum to reflect the new standards, leaving schools scrambling to put materials in the hands of their teachers. Curriculum publishers hurried to brand themselves as aligned with these new standards in hopes that states would choose their materials; the lack of this ‘Common Core’ branding would mean economic hardship for their business in the public school sector.
Theodor Rebarber, founder and CEO of AccountabilityWorks, stated that publishers view this branding as an “economic imperative for survival.” Unfortunately, Rebarber admits there has been little “objective assessment” of whether or not the curricula are truly in line with Common Core standards.
The result is a market flooded with choices, and with little direction for how to choose. Jeannette LaFors, director of equity initiatives at Education Trust-West likens it to “trying to drink from a water hydrant.”
Opponents believe that the natural outcome is that curriculum publishers with the loudest voices – not necessarily the best curricula, will be the voices the states hear. Likewise, with already limited funds, school systems all across America are searching for the most bang for their buck. Thus the push is for fewer textbooks and more Internet and technology-based materials. Unfortunately not all schools have the funding to expand their technology capabilities, making a difficult situation even more so.
The Rush to Align With New Standards Results in Poor Implementation
Although the curriculum is separate from the standards, opponents argue that the standards themselves are in part to blame for the problem. Schools are attempting to teach children with unfamiliar materials, which may or may not be aligned with the wide-sweeping new standards. This is because curriculum developers had to scramble to publish newly “aligned” materials, often resulting in strange and confusing wording.
As for inappropriate sexual and other content, critics say that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the curriculum developers who chose to put those examples in the text. The schools share blame only in that they did not completely read through every textbook – with limited funding, shorthanded staff, and a short time in which to choose Common Core Aligned materials.© Copyright 2013 Jennifer Wagaman, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting