The Common Core Curriculum: Is It Right for DC?


Following the lead of 40 other states, DC has adopted the Common Core Standards for its public schools. These standards are designed to provide a framework for comparison among states and keep students and educators on the same page nationwide. Supported by DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, The DC State Board of Education voted in the standards on July 21, 2010 by a margin of 6 to 1. Unfortunately, since little public discourse regarding the standards occurred prior to their adoption, some citizens are skeptical of their applicability here.

 The standards are comprised of long term and grade specific standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. According to the Common Core Standards Initiative, the body that produces reports outlining the standards, the core standards seek to promote higher level learning processes. For example, the ELA standards approach reading, writing, speaking/listening and language as related skills and integrate their assessment. They also embed media and research skills within the ELA standards. The Math standards provide clear and specific benchmarks for proficiency, but also stress conceptual understanding, measured through one’s ability to justify their work.

The Common Core Standards have been central to a local and national discourse on the standardization of education. One common criticism of the standards is that they water down education through standardization. According to educator Marion Brady the common core standards are flawed because they “assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact, the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields is vast.” Others argue that national standards stifle teacher independence within the classroom. But documents from the Common Core Standards Initiative assert that the standards do not dictate instruction methods: “The standards define what all students should know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.” Nor do standards set a ceiling on what kids can be taught, just a floor.

If implementation continues here as planned,  the current standardized assessment, the DC CAS will be replaced by an assessment based on the Common Core Standards by 2014 DC. Hopefully, there will be opportunities for public discourse in preparation for the change, so that parents and communities  gain a  greater understanding of the Common Core Standards and what they mean for students and their teachers.


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