Common Core Math, Common Sense Approach

Earlier this week, EdSec Arne Duncan issued one of his strongest defenses of Common Core State Standards to date, taking CCSS haters to task for spreading misinformation and and offering “imaginary” criticisms of the non-federal standards issued in by the Federal government through Race to the Top and other new programs.

His defense is laudable.  Duncan is a firm believer in common academic standards for all students.  A fifth grader in Connecticut should be learning at the same pace as a fifth grader in Chicago or in Tuscaloosa or in Denver.  And like it or not, a state or a locality can still protect their academic autonomy even with CCSS as the guide.
But with so many folks focused on CCSS’ black helicopters and its role in leading an international takeover of our public schools where every child will be speaking French and using the metric system, and with critics on the other side of the ideological spectrum fearing CCSS assessments and believing that testing our kids in any way, shape, or form will destroy our children from the soul outward (despite decades of children who took California Achievement Tests, Iowa tests, Stanfords, SATs, ACTs, drivers tests, IQ tests, and Pepsi taste tests without too much damage), not much public discussion is being directed at HOW we actually go about teaching to the CCSS and ensuring that are kids are hitting the math and reading benchmarks we expect to see.
Last week, the State of Louisiana waded into this discussion, issuing guidance on what resources were best for teachers in teaching to the Common Core.  Interestingly, Louisiana’s Office of the State Superintendent did not recommend any specific math textbooks, finding that “none were sufficiently aligned to the Common Core State Standards.”
But it did recommend a new P-12 math curriculum created by a not-for-profit organization, praising it for its rigor and and alignment to CCSS.
The curriculum of note was developed by a national not-for-profit called Common Core (interestingly, the group was created years before the CCSS were ever adopted and is in no way affiliated with the CCSSI, though both share some words in their names).  Common Core “creates curriculum tools and promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels.”
Some might recall the K-12 ELA curriculum maps Common Core released in 2010 as part of its Curriculum Mapping Project.  To date, those ELA maps have been viewed more than 6 million times, with 20,000 educators from across the country formally joining the Mapping Project to ensure a “well-developed, content-rich curriculum.”
The math curriculum boosted by Louisiana is Common Core’s latest effort.  It was developed in partnership with the New York State Department of Education and is currently available on the Common Core website and through NYSED’s website.  The Common Core math curriculum will be available in print through Jossey-Bass at the end of the summer.
Why is this so important?  For one, Common Core’s efforts (in both ELA and math) are a direct response to the question of how do we teach to the CCSS.  They are real approaches to meaningful curricula that align to the standards, go beyond the basics, and really promote student learning and intellectual development.
Equally important, this is a curricular approach developed by educators for educators.  It wasn’t done “to” teachers, it was done by teachers, created with classroom needs and instructional improvement as a central driver. 
Clearly, we are still at the beginning of the CCSS implementation journey.  But Common Core’s efforts, starting with the ELA maps and rolling into this new P-12 math curriculum, is moving us beyond the CCSS rhetoric and vitriol toward some meaningful discussion and action in how to improve teaching and learning and how to ensure all students are meeting expectations.
(Full disclosure: Eduflack has worked with Common Core for years, including helping roll out the ELA Curriculum Maps.)

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