This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by Dave
Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is
one component of the Information Age Education project. See http://iae-pedia.org/
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available free online at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.
Common Core State Standards Part 7: Getting to the Core Issues—
Will We Get It Right?
Educational Consultant/Trainer; School Improvement Facilitator
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have enthusiastic
proponents and harsh critics. This article provides some considerations
about how the CCSS can best serve their intended purpose: To help
ensure K-12 student mastery of the central curricular components they
will need to succeed in college, careers, and other aspects of their
Hitting the Target, But Missing the Mark
Suppose you want to quickly lose or gain 10 pounds. Certain drugs,
exercise, and a controlled low calorie diet can help you lose weight,
while certain other drugs, a controlled high calorie diet, and weight
gain supplements can help you gain weight. The problem with either plan
is that it could possibly leave your health worse off than it was, and
the weight changes are not apt to be long lasting. You also could be at
risk for immune, cardiac, and other disorders.
Professionals in this field know of better ways to reach and maintain
weight loss/gain goals. They would probably begin by asking two
questions: "Why do you need a weight change goal?" and "What's the best
way to accomplish it?"
The CCSS movement confronts an analogous issue. How best can we
(quickly) improve K-12 education in a manner that will be sustained and
will have few undesirable side effects? Over the years, individual
state standards and Federal pressures have shifted the concepts of
curriculum and instruction to a new emphasis on curriculum and
assessment. States' testing programs focused on what students were
supposed to learn, but didn't address the underlying issues of why and
how they were supposed to learn it. The CCSS developers are trying to
address these weighty why and how questions. This article will suggest
elements of the CCSS program that provide promise and elements that
perhaps should cause concern.
A Few Perspectives from Within and Without the Field
Support for and opposition to the CCSS come at macro and micro
levels. Macro level detractors object to the basic premise of needing a
single set of standards in our diverse and changing world. They tend to
prefer “local” over national control. They also argue that our current
educational system is not as badly flawed as many claim. Conversely,
supporters of the CCSS believe that a national set of internationally
benchmarked expectations offers a potential solution to the educational
and career woes that plague our educational system.
Some Potential Positives of the CCSS
Many CCSS supporters state that an important strength is the
fact that carefully selected standards can build upon one another and
emphasize critical thinking, depth and complexity, 21st Century Skills,
College and Career Readiness, and international benchmarking. In our
highly mobile society, students moving from one state to another would
make a more seamless transition. The CCSS also place considerable
emphasis on better and more uniform assessment.
The CCSS already are having a major impact on school textbook
publishers. In a practical sense, the CCSS may likely allow
opportunities for publishers of educational materials to focus their
resources on higher quality products instead of continuing to modify
content to meet the needs of individual state curricula.
Greater uniformity in content and assessment will make it easier for
people who provide free materials via the Web to develop materials with
potential nationwide usefulness. This kind of educational collaboration
can help to improve the quality of classroom instruction.
Individual states will still have some degree of flexibility in
adapting the CCSS to meet state needs and/or demands. Many educators
already embrace the CCSS focus on higher-order thinking skills, depth
of knowledge, critical thinking, and performance. They see this as a
very positive move away from the currently prevalent drill and kill
The English Language Arts College and Career Anchor Standards, if
correctly put into authentic play, can help the new generation of K-12
learners to be better prepared for college, career, and life. See http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/L.
The English Language Arts CCSS place a greater emphasis on non-fiction
text, and they stress the importance of reading across the curriculum.
Many people feel the increased emphasis on such reading, along with
using reading as a vehicle for learning the various disciplines, will
contribute to student success in college, careers, and life.
Some Potential Negatives of the CCSS
Claims that certain individual state’s standards may be
superior, suspicions about a “national” curriculum (perhaps blurring
“federal” with “national”), and preferences for local control are among
some of the overarching criticisms. They point to very large
differences in the culture and life in different parts of the country,
and argue that schools need to accommodate and support such diversity.
Many critics are displeased with the strong emphasis on algebra and
claim there is a lack of emphasis on math facts, basic arithmetic, and
algorithms during the elementary school years.
Timing may be another issue. Teachers are expected to begin using the
CCSS while the corresponding assessments are still being developed.
This leaves a potential gap between what is being taught and what is
being assessed. This could lead to considerable confusion and
A high fidelity of implementation will require far more staff
development than is currently available. With the current state of the
economy, and with human and financial resources stretched, many see the
implementation of the CCSS as a monumental and expensive task, one that
poses a significant challenge. School systems have limited budgets to
provide needed training to familiarize teachers and other stakeholders
with the CCSS content and the effective delivery of that content.
In recent years, assessment and accountability have become a central
practical feature of the implementation of the state standards,
resulting in what amounts to checklists of items that had to be covered
rather than emphasizing the quality of learning and teaching. Educators
perhaps need to proceed with the spirit and not merely the content of
the CCSS in order to avoid the potential pitfalls of “business as
usual.” When overly stressed, we tend to take the path of least
The Bored of Education: The Brain that Wouldn’t Go Away
Learning does not occur in a vacuum. Among the many forces at
play are physiological, psychological, social, cognitive, behavioral,
verbal/non-verbal, explicit and implicit communication, and others.
Ignoring or overlooking these forces reflects a fundamental
misunderstanding of real learning—that it somehow can or will occur or
exist independent of these and other factors.
Revisions to curriculum content and assessment may have little impact
on student in-school attention, learning, and comprehension. The
planned revisions may even increase the growing mismatch between our
Information Age children who routinely and fluently make use of many
aspects of Information and Communication Technology, and their
The good news is that we now know enough to start to make major
improvements in our educational system. Professionally driven 21st
century teachers must master educationally significant cognitive
neuroscience discoveries, and work to apply them appropriately in their
teaching. Our profession must reach beyond the confines of the field
itself to learn the valuable and essential lessons that will make the
difference in our schools. When we do, student interest and achievement
will increase and misbehavior will decrease.
Suppose I were to ask two different people if they had been to
Yosemite National Park, and one had driven through with the car windows
shut and never stopped, while the other had parked, gotten out, hiked,
touched, smelled, and experienced the park. Both could technically say
they had been there. Their experiences, however, would have been
dramatically different. To truly appreciate the majesty and grandeur of
Yosemite, one must be interested enough to explore and truly experience
it in a variety of ways.
Real learning is similar. Plowing through curriculum is a very
different experience from meaningfully exploring, analyzing, using,
synthesizing, and extending information and understanding in the quest
for true learning. In both cases, however, the curriculum has been
“covered.” Large philosophical questions notwithstanding, the CCSS and
their associated assessment systems in and of themselves likely are
neither inherently good nor bad.
Like all standards and curricula, the CCSS have their definite
strengths and weaknesses. As states move toward full implementation,
educators need to know and use not only the CCSS themselves, but also
the “Why” and the “How” of education. These are the very factors that
would help influence a brain to attend and a student to really learn to
be a creative and innovative problem-solver in a rapidly changing world.
Educators can and do make a difference. Those who understand the brain
and learning, and the implications and applications of this knowledge,
will be in a better position to teach and facilitate learning that can
inspire generations of students to come.
David Ghoogasian, educational consultant/trainer and school
improvement facilitator, has a rich background in education, which
includes teaching, counseling, administration, and professional
development. A former school principal, Mr. Ghoogasian trains and
teaches parents, students, and educators with backgrounds ranging from
early childhood education through college and university instruction.
His philosophical approach and work weave together important findings
in education, psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, behavioral
science, communication, other relevant disciplines, and experience. He
teaches and trains through his own company, The Lyceum, as well as
through the University of California, Riverside, Irvine, and San Diego
education extension programs.
Mr. Ghoogasian is a member of the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE)
and Professional Teaching certificate program advisory boards at UCI
Extension. He has served on visiting committees for the Western
Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Schools
and has been a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development (ASCD) and the California Association for the Gifted (CAG).
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