Everything You Should Know About Common Core
Common Core: What Is It and Why Should You Care About It?
Back in September 2016, we introduced a new curriculum here at BigByte Education. This new curriculum was a completely different direction compared to typical ESL curricula that many students in Asia are so used to. Considered an integrated ELL (English Language Learner) approach, our new curriculum came with the label “Common Core State Standards-aligned” but, to many, those words require more explanation. We routinely heard questions from students’ parents, such as:
What is Common Core? What does this mean in the context of my children?
Well, we think this is the perfect opportunity to tell you everything you should know about Common Core (also known as Common Core State Standards or CCSS) and why you should care about it, too.
What is Common Core?
To put it simply, Common Core is a set of expectations which establishes clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Launched across 48 states in the US in 2009, Common Core aims to prepare students for a more and more demanding world, whether students plan to jump straight into entry-level careers, continue their studies at college, or join workforce-training programs. With a large group of experts, including teachers, contributing to the development of Common Core, the forward-thinking curriculum aims to educate students with the world stage in mind.
Conceived after the release of a report entitled Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education by the National Governors Association, Common Core focuses on helping children develop vital skills, such as critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analyzing, as opposed to drip-feeding them facts and figures. The Common Core State Standards Initiative’s website characterizes the concept into 6 points, which are:
Research- and evidence-based
Clear, understandable, and consistent
Aligned with college and career expectations
Based on rigorous content and application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills
Built upon the strengths and lessons of current state standards
Informed by other top performing countries in order to prepare all students for success in our global economy and society
Why is Common Core the right choice?
As you will all know, the direction of public education tends to be a big point of contention for parents, teachers, and academics all over the world. Considering children are the future of that world, it’s easy to see why. The stakes are just so high. So why do we think Common Core is the way forward in the context of students in Asia?
1. They are internationally benchmarked
This means that these standards compare favorably with other countries around the world. For Asian students, this means that your English language skills are competitive around the world and, for those planning to study abroad, it puts you in the best position to thrive in a Western environment.
2. They help you monitor your progress
One of the major benefits of having a set of common standards is that it becomes very easy for students to monitor where they are academically. For students who fall behind, they can see exactly where they need to focus their efforts. For students who excel, they get a boost of confidence to reward their performance.
3. They expect more of our children
The introduction of Common Core brought about an increase in expectations. When you consider that Common Core was created as a response to U.S. schools falling behind, it is reasonable for the curriculum to expect more from our children. What does this mean for students in Asia? It may mean that we, too, raise our expectations from students and their teachers.
4. They develop more important skills
As mentioned earlier, Common Core shifts its focus to a skill-based approach, aiming to help children learn transferable skills, such as critical-thinking and collaboration. Why is this positive? It means our children are better equipped to face the challenges of college and adulthood. It means they are able to go out into the world and provide value.
5. They help teachers monitor students’ progress mORE eFFECTIVELY
There aren’t only benefits for students, there are a ton of benefits for teachers, too. Previously, with individual schools and districts setting their own standards, it was hard for teachers to assess their own performance. With Common Core, teachers, administrators, and principals are in a much better position to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
6 They help MOBILE students SETTLE
This means that Common Core makes life much easier for students who move regularly. Instead of falling behind, these students are now able to settle in at each new school without completely shifting the focus of their studies. For students in Asia whose parents plan to move to the West in the future, this means a smooth transition awaits.
The Arguments Against Common Core
Since its widespread implementation, Common Core’s journey has not been without its bumps. Parents and teachers have made their opinions of the curriculum known, citing a number of different issues they would like to see changed. In saying that, though, very few argue with Common Core’s principle mission. Arguments have usually been levied against what it looks like in practice, but here’s why those arguments have very different answers in the context of Taiwan:
A difficult adjustment?
Some have argued that the transition has been very difficult for students and teachers. In some cases, teachers have had to make large-scale changes to their classroom to fit the new requirements. Here at BigByte, we say that this adjustment is necessary if we want to drastically improve our education system. What better investment is there than that of our children’s futures?
Hard to define?
Teachers, particularly, have taken issue with defining each of the standards set out in the curriculum, stating that they are difficult to translate into the classroom. However, we think that time and thought is required in each circumstance and that there should be room for interpretation if we want to find the most effective ways to teach/learn each standard.
Just as some view the increased expectations of Common Core as a benefit, others think it is expecting too much of our kids, arguing that the transition may lead students to fall behind. We say that this is true and that, as a result, teachers and parents can and should play a bigger part in encouraging and guiding students. Find out more about how you can do that here.
Unfortunately, for some of the poorer areas of the U.S., Common Core’s need for technology can be impossible to fulfil. With falling budgets, these schools are clearly not at fault. We feel that this is a systemic issue in the big picture of education and that the onus is on governments to address the issue of disparity in funding across different areas.
How Can I Learn More?
With the world changing at a rapid pace, it can be uncomfortable for us to face the fact that education must change, too. While Common Core may not be a perfect solution to the problems we face in education, it may be our best hope. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Giving our children the best chance of success.
If you want to learn more about how we use Common Core at BigByte, click HERE to find out more about our English courses or click below to book a tour.