Benefits and Drawbacks of Common Core StandardsJune 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 4 Comments
There is much debate over the changes from the current standards to the new common core standards. While these shifts all have potential benefits in literacy and education in a content area there are also some potential drawbacks.
The reading (Subjects Matter) mentioned that federal standards encourage teachers to teach a few topics in depth as opposed to many topics superficially. This is an idea that is often echoed in graduate level teaching courses. However previous state standards expected teachers to cover a wide array of material before the standardized test in June. These standardized tests were also designed in such a way that it favored those with a superficial understanding of topics and “deep-thinking” students often performed poorly and/or under “superficial-thinking” students on those tests (http://testcritic.homestead.com/files/standardized_tests.html#f7). According to Robert Rothman the new common core shifts promote this idea of teaching topics more in depth and promoting a deeper, more lasting understanding of the content. These shifts encourage teachers to only teach a few topics over the course of the year, instead of many (http://hepg.org/hel/article/543#home).
The ELA/Literacy shifts also focus on introducing more nonfiction trade books, newspaper articles, journals and primary sources into the classroom to encourage a more interesting and relevant approach to content areas while improving the literacy of students. Looking at a science classroom the benefits of incorporating articles and research on the benefits of a topic as well as their downfalls can easily be seen, for example students reading articles both for and against nuclear power will be able to better make up their own mind about the controversy. In addition having students read the journals of Madame Curie or Charles Darwin, instead of giving them a pre-digested version, will help students to form their own conclusions and to connect to the scientists. These primary sources will help students grapple with tough ideas and feel more connected to the material, which will hopefully lead to a deeper understanding.
Other shifts outline that students must bring in more text-cited sources into their writing. The benefits of the students incorporating more evidence into their writing to better make an argument can also easily be seen. There are two literacy shifts that deal specifically with using text-based responses to make claims (shift 4 and 5). In science it is very important to support your claims with credible evidence; however it is also important to push what has been done before further and to think outside the box. To wonder about things that haven’t been explored yet and to develop new theories and ideas that have no or few current resources to cite are fundamental in not only science, but mathematics, literature and the arts.
The change of standards to the common core seems to have both obvious benefits and potential drawbacks. In order for success with the previous standards teachers needed to instruct a wide array of topics superficially. The new standards encourage a deeper, more lasting, learning of the material by shifting the focus to a few key concepts and building off of them. There are also many potential benefits of bringing in outside reading sources into the classroom. This material may help to spark deep thought and debate, like in the example of nuclear power, or help students have a better understanding of how scientific theories such as evolution were developed by reading Darwin. While it is important for students to cite sources and back up their arguments with credible evidence it is also important for students to think creatively and pursue paths that do not already have pioneers or trailblazers. By disallowing students to make claims without already explored evidence to support them a concern is raised. Will the common core rob students of their ability to think creatively by forcing them to only think about what can be cited from sources?