My Opinion on Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

I have had the luxury of taking time to form my opinion on the new Common Core Standards.

There are three issues to consider, all of which get discussed when we talk about them.

1. The content of the standards themselves.

2. The nature of the assessments used to hold schools accountable for them.

3. The implementation of them, from curricular support, professional development and accountability processes.

My take on Issue 1 is that they are a strong first draft. The practice standards are the boldest and most important innovation, since they press on higher order thinking. Nonetheless they have some flaws. For instance, a teacher friend told me one grade asks that students learn to make box-and-whiskers plots while the subsequent grade asks for students to compare them to look at differences in measures of central tendency. Well, making those plots without looking comparatively is a silly exercise since the whole point is that they make measures of central tendency and spread visible. Goofs like this could be tweaked in field testing, but the authors did not have that chance.

2. I had some hope that the ‘second generation’ assessments developed for CCSS-M would be a step up from a lot of what we have seen. The release items I have seen so far have not carried out that promise.

3. The biggest problem, in my mind, is the rush of implementation and the lack of resources to make this ambitious goal feasible. Perhaps the most fatal aspect of implementation is that CCSS-M is getting put into the very flawed infrastructure of NCLB/RTTT. On the ground, it ends up feeling like a turning of the screws in the already problematic accountability pressures schools and teachers are facing.

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4 thoughts on “My Opinion on Common Core State Standards in Mathematics

  1. Not criticizing your general themes here, but I have to say the arguments against the CCSS-M content that take the form “a teacher friend told me this very specific annoyance…” are some of my least favorite arguments. Because they’re usually wrong, or at the very least misrepresent the standards based on a simplistic and superficial reading. In this example, box plots appear in 6.SP.4 “Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots” and then not again until high school. If you read the whole of the 6.SP standards, they’re all about describing data collected to answer a statistical question, with a box plot an example of a way to visualize center and spread. I would think that using them to compare more than one data set would be a very natural thing to do, and there’s nothing in the standards that would keep you from using them thusly. (One-variable stats don’t make another appearance until high school (7th grade introduces probability, and 8th grade has informal bivariate stats.))

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    • Since teachers are the end users, their opinions and experiences are highly consequential. The particular teacher is extremely thoughtful, diligent, thorough and committed to the idea of standards, so his word weighs a lot in me.

      Nonetheless, I appreciate your clarification!

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