Common Core: A Step in the Right Direction by Dr. Jason T. Hilton


It seems that both in education circles and in public forums, the new Common Core standards are getting a bad wrap. Criticized for their divergence from the material found on standardized tests and publicly shamed for their “new” math approach, finding a proponent of these standards who is not tied to either their creation or their implementation can be challenging. Well let me go out on a limb here and present a more positive argument for Common Core.

To begin, Common Core is not No Child Left Behind! It represents a first step away from the toxic public education landscape created by high stakes standardized testing. While those who favor such testing may be more rare these days than those who favor Common Core standards, standing with the crowd against Common Core rather than working to improve these new standards only leaves us with what we already have – a polarizing and punishing educational environment that has failed to yield meaningful results in the last 13 years.

In their movement away from “content” based standards to “skill” based standards, Common Core represents an important and more meaningful shift. Do students need to know content? Absolutely! But more important is that students know key skills that allow them to locate new content, analyze the content they encounter, and produce their own creative content. The new Common Core standards accentuate these very skills, accounting for both traditional print and emerging digital formats in the process. This may have the potential to place American students back on a competitive path with their global counterparts. No Child Left Behind does not.

Then there is that “new” math issue. Does it look weird to us “old” math people? Of course. Is it frustrating for parents trying to struggle through their own math misunderstandings while simultaneously attempting to help their children with their homework? Undoubtedly! So why bother, old math worked for my grandpa? Well, the problem is old math has not been working for our children. From the 1980’s forward American children have been falling behind their global peers in mathematics. Why? They memorize old math algorithms but can’t explain why the algorithm works. Meanwhile those in other countries often not only understand the algorithm but also the reasoning behind it. This is content vs. skills, only with numbers.

Want to improve American education in comparison to global competitors? Stop teaching students to memorize content and start to prepare them to understand content as skilled and creative thinkers. High stakes standardized testing does not do this, but the Common Core standards just might.

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