The Core of Our Future Lies in the Common Core of our Present

imageImagine being back in Elementary School. You are learning addition. Your teacher asks you to add 8+4. This takes nearly a minute. It isn’t because you are not proficient at adding with your fingers or counting dots on numbers. This is because you are following a complex Base 10 System by adding the highest number in the equation to equal ten and then subtracting what you added to the higher number to the lower number, and then finding the sum of the two final numbers you have left. If you are totally lost, or even if you understand, you might be questioning, what 8 year-old should ever go through this sort of complex and perplexing system when you can just add 8+4 in just a couple of seconds? Allegedly, it is because the Base 10 System allows children to ‘further understand numbers’ by making them horribly complex.

Now imagine yourself in a top notch school system. You have always done pretty well in school, and a new system, the common core, was just implemented. It is a system that has standards set to challenge students and improve their skills in math and reading. But, instead of finding yourself challenged, you find yourself bored and constantly doing busy work. According to Wisconsin Reporter, Marcia Alder, a mother of three, knows this story all too well. Alder stated, “For high performing schools, these aren’t cutting it. This is not rigorous, this is not advanced.”

Now let’s talk about stats. For five years in a row, Education Week ranked Maryland the top state for public education. Then, boom. It dropped to third place this past year. Why? Well, over the past few years there has been a shift into a full-on implementation of the common core. The full implementation of the common core occurred during the 2013-2014 school year- the year they dropped two places. According to the Washington Post, since the common core began to be implemented in the Maryland school system, test scores have dropped, along with proficiency in reading and math. Was it the bewildering and needless complexities of the new system that led to Maryland dropping to the third spot, or did the Common Core “dumb down” the school systems because they lowered their standards? Does the answer really matter if we know the root cause?

Not surprisingly, I have yet to meet a teacher who is highly pro-common core. A main reason why people in general have been in favor of the common core is because they hear that it sets standards for the students. Standards are a great thing, right? Who would be against setting the bar for students to excel? Well, as I am doing practicum in Virginia, a state where the common core has not been implemented, I have had a huge realization: Even states who don’t have the common core still have standards! In fact, Virginia has this thing called the Standards of Learning, or SOLs. The SOLs are thorough standards set by the Virginia Department of Education. They are specific, build on each other each year, and are tested.

So, why is any of this important? Well, as an education major, I believe that equipping children with a proper education is vital to not only the future of the individuals of our country, but also to the future of our country itself. When our current generation of children becomes the generation that makes up our legislators, Supreme Court justices, and President of the United States, I would like them to have had at least a decent education. In fact, I would love for them to have had a superb education. But, does common core give our children the opportunity to have a superb education?

Even if common core is mediocre at best, does having the same federal standards across nearly all states allow for local school boards to better their education system? If everyone has the same standards, standards which are not set by the state or local governments, then how can the states improve the flaws they see in the education system? If a state has their own standards that they go by, then they can constantly be improving their standards, fixing the flaws, and making their state more competitive in the education realm.

Apparently, many conservatives also agree that the common core is not a cheery ball of unicorn dust and wonder. In fact, according to the CPAC straw poll, 58% of CPAC voters said that they would never vote for a Republican nominee who supports the common core. Whether the reason be too much federal involvement in the local school system, or having a track record of needlessly complex and confusing math problems and declining test scores, the major flaws in the common core could have a huge effect on not only the next presidential race, but the future of America as a whole.image

Follow Rebekah Swieringa on Twitter at @PonderTheRandom.