Letter: Common Core is a standard, not curriculum

The letter from Judge Linda Holliday in the July 1 Advocate highlights the real problem with Common Core Standards.

When even highly educated and intelligent folks like Judge Holliday are confused about the difference between standards (goals) and curriculum (instructional content, materials, resources and processes used to achieve those goals), it is no wonder that everyone is ready to burn Common Core at the stake.

To clarify — Common Core is no more than a set of goals for children in each grade to attain before moving on. For example, the math standards for fourth grade say that children of that age should understand the concept of fractions. Not earth-shaking.

Please read the Common Core documents. They are available online. They are not controversial or confusing. In fact, the group that created Common Core purposefully avoided subjects where opinions may vary, such as history. The standards cover math and language arts only.

All (every single one) of the complaints about Common Core standards that I have heard are actually complaints regarding the curriculum used to teach the requirements. Many people label these teaching processes as “Common Core” when they are not. They are a curriculum designed to teach what the standards contain. “Common Core Standards” refer to a specific document that was created by representatives from the 50 states (not the federal government) to set forth what children should learn. “Common Core Curriculum” is not a single, specific thing. Each state can invent its own methods and adopt its own resources (e.g. textbooks).

Kentucky adopted Common Core in 2010. According to Parents United for Public Schools, their high school graduation rate increased by 6 percent, and their standardized test score gained 2 percent. Their percentage of students ready for college went from 34 to 54 percent.

If there is a child somewhere in a classroom who is confused by the methods used to teach what a fraction is, that does not mean that we should abandon the notion that he/she should understand fractions (the standard). It means that we need to find another way to convey the knowledge.

Standards do not address the problem of one-size-does-not-fit-all. A child who cannot understand the subject matter should be enrolled in special or remedial education. A child who already knows what is being taught should be moved to advanced classes. Problem solved.

Repeat: None of this has anything whatsoever to do with the standards. I believe that by continuing to print letters from folks who do not know the difference between standards and curriculum, The Advocate is doing a great disservice to the children, teachers and educational system of Louisiana.

We are creating a political issue where no political content exists.

Michael Hale

IT consultant

Baton Rouge