Teachers say Common Core not such a bad apple

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An elementary school student in Provo considers his homework. Many teachers in Provo schools have expressed support for Common Core, despite it being controversial.
An elementary school student in Provo considers his homework. Many teachers in Provo schools have expressed support for Common Core, despite it being controversial.

Common Core has become a heated topic for Americans, but many teachers locally and nationwide, conservative or not, believe Common Core is not a negative program.

Katie Kimber had taught in elementary school in Utah, Alabama and Texas and said she was frustrated with the differing standards in each state.

“I’ve been hoping for a Common Core kind of thing … no matter where I go it will all be the same,” she said.

Consistency for teachers and students across states is a major factor in teacher support for Common Core. When teachers receive new students from states with different standards there is frequently a period of serious adjustment where students must either catch up or relearn concepts they have already studied.

Tim Morrison, an associate chair of BYU’s Department of Teacher Education, said he believes the consistency of Common Core makes it better for children in a mobile society.

Educators aren’t the only ones who value consistency across the states in education standards. Morrison said the Department of Defense has been supportive of Common Core because it will allow children of servicemen and women, who are highly mobile, to have the same standards of education no matter where they move.

“Why Common Core gets a bad rap is because most people are fearful of change and they equate new with bad,” said Joy Hollander, a fifth-grade teacher in Las Vegas.

But according to Damon Bahr, a professor in the BYU Department of Teacher Education, Common Core isn’t all that new.

“There are certain aspects of the Common Core that are new, but the vision of teaching upon which the Common Core is based is not,” he said. “There is a string of documents produced by numerous mathematics and education groups that is 34 years long that are based upon the same vision of teaching that the Common Core is based upon.”

Some people have suggested that Common Core is setting lower-quality standards for education than we have had in the past.

“I hear people say that Common Core is dumbing down education, but it isn’t; it’s requiring more,” Morrison said.

Though Common Core has reduced the number of educational standards students are required to meet, multiple teachers agreed that it has raised the bar on more important standards by requiring students to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts they study. Hollander explained that Common Core is moving away from the “mile wide and inch deep” method.

Common Core’s math standards in particular have been highly criticized, with viral Youtube videos mocking complex methods being used to solve simple math problems.

Bahr expressed a different view on the new math standards. He suggested that the vision of Common Core seeks to teach students how to think mathematically and to understand how math works, not just memorize rules, facts and procedures. He explained that if students understand how the mathematics work, they will learn the rules, facts and procedures sooner, remember them longer and apply them to real-life situations more readily.

Though the teachers interviewed supported Common Core, several pointed out that the standards aren’t perfect.

“I’m not agreeing with all of the standards, and not all of them are developmentally appropriate,” Hollander said.

To most teachers, Common Core is nothing new or radical, just a set of standards that will keep students in many different states on the same page.

Kimber said every state pretty much teaches the same things, but they organize it differently and give it a different name. She said even though Texas is teaching essentially the same standards as the rest of the nation, it rejected Common Core because it wanted to be different than the rest of the states.

“From someone who has seen at least three different states’ curriculum, they are all the same anyway,” Kimber said. “Why not keep it the same across the board?”

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