The Uncommon Common Core

Our District has a committee is working on unpacking the Common Core for Pre-K to 8 this summer. I volunteered – begged really – to do this and, lucky for me, I am part of the committee.

Even with all of the expertise on this committee, there are struggles as we dig through seemingly simple standards only to discover that it’s more complicated than it appears from the surface.  What will be important at one grade level may not be emphasized (notice I didn’t say it wouldn’t be important) at the next — I have to say that the way these standards are built shows much thoughtfulness into the process of becoming mathematically literate.

Here are some of the pieces that I think are strong:

  • The standards are very specific. It is quite clear what skills and concepts each grade level will be responsible for.
  • There is a place for fluency with computation and it is spelled out explicitly.
  • Topics are explored in depth and students are expected to demonstrate understanding. Rote processes are not going to be enough; if a student is using the standard algorithm (for example), then that students needs to be able to explain how and why that algorithm works.
It is gratifying to see this committee complete the shift begun almost 10 years ago – the shift to thinking in terms of “standards” and not what page of a text is covered.  Finally a curriculum guide that recognizes the expertise of the teacher in choosing the appropriate materials to use when teaching — which doesn’t mean nothing is provided for those who want that support; but it is freeing for those of us who have felt hindered by a particular program or product being used district-wide.
It is going to be a massive undertaking to update guides, update assessments, and provide support for teachers who haven’t had the opportunity to look at these standards in depth.  It is an uncommon opportunity.