THE BLOG
05/08/2014 02:46 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2014

Common Core Learning Standards: A Failing System?

In today's educational environment, students of all backgrounds including English language learners need to quickly acquire proficiency in the Common Core standards and succeed on high stakes exams. Now with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, (CCSS) teachers and schools nationwide are challenged to implement the CCSS in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics with students of all backgrounds including English language learners. However, there are many claims against its effectiveness, and some are even going so far as to suggest it's not a pedagogically sound system.

Problem #1 Has the US Become Completely Driven by Common Core Standards?
Teachers nationwide are feeling the constant pressure to evaluate without having the Common Core standards rule and dictate their classroom as early as pre-K! To heighten the tension, teachers' merit invariably depends on their professional success and whether their students can excel with these new learning standards.
Teachers interviewed for Listening and Reading for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success with K-6, felt they no longer had ownership over teaching and other pedagogical decisions without first thinking about the consequences of Common Core in their classrooms. Nathan Arora, president of SchoolTutoring.com, an online tutoring company for K-12 and college students sees what has already become a serious problem of lack of teacher ownership. "Common Core needs to give teachers the ability to customize their classroom activities and do what they do best: teach."

Problem #2: Meeting the academic needs for English Language Learners
Content area teachers specifically need guidance as to how ELL students can meet these standards. To this end, school districts will need to provide necessary support for their ESL programs including a formalized ESL curriculum that needs to be established and aligned with the mainstream curriculum using the CCSS to help ELL students academically progress. The problems of time and curriculum constraints continue to threaten collaboration between ESL and general education teachers across the content areas. Collaboration on CCSS is most effective when there is a need to provide some kind of instructional support. To address the problem, school districts are now scrambling to provide any kind of teacher development and training on CCSS to help teachers work with these ESL students.

Problem #3: Lack of Field Testing and Teacher Involvement
The problem of lack of field testing is a biggie and has many educators and parents scratching their heads. Why wasn't this new system field tested before implemented? How can teachers know if their students will succeed at this new and more difficult curriculum if it's not tested?

Given that not all students learn at the same pace, teachers are aware of how to best support their learners. Now with more information taught at an even more rapid pace with more difficult tasks, researchers and educators hypothesize that most children won't do as well as they are used to academically. This tightens even further the "reign" on educators since they were simply handed a set of standards with the expectation they would fit a "one size fits all" learning standard that may not accommodate the learning needs of their diverse classrooms.

Let's put this concept into perspective: A fourth grader who lives in New York may read on a sixth grade reading level and a fourth grader in California may read on a fourth grade reading level. The expectation of these new standards runs contrary to the widely accepted pedagogical notion that one size of learning does not fit all.

These two children might not be able to get an education that meets their reading level and even if the teacher works with each child individually, s/he may not be able to give each child the appropriate time needed in all content areas of learning including writing, reading, and math.

Obviously, these problems could have been prevented if there was field testing using a student population sample as a pilot. Could the California and New York student achieve the standards even though they read at different levels? The fact that the standards have been implemented nearly all across the nation with no field testing has now left each local school district nationwide to fend for its own and make decisions about how to teach since there weren't any textbooks, curriculum or tools associated with CCSS from the start.

Teachers continue to feel resentment due to the fact that the CCSS was essentially thrown at them without consulting with them first being that they know what works and what doesn't in their classrooms. "In creating national educational standards, teachers must be forefront in the discussion since the standard's success ultimately rests in its daily classroom implementation," says Nathan Arora.

Problem #4: What Happened to Reading Fiction?
Surprise, surprise! To support almost all of the reading performance standards, almost all the required reading in CCSS classrooms have sadly become non-fiction. While there's nothing wrong with reading expository and informative texts to gain knowledge and improve reading fluency and performance, many teachers and parents are questioning this decision to do away with fiction. Children learn many things from fiction including themes, life lessons, and morals. Fiction teach children what is and isn't acceptable in society. Without fiction, students won't read books for the sake of reading for pleasure and no longer will have a way to express themselves with their reading tastes.

Despite these harsh claims, many are starting to see the positive elements with the new standards. The CCSS does not represent the standards for one specific group but the standards for the entire nation. However, like many things in education, time will tell if teachers are adequately prepared to support their learners in the most meaningful way that is not completely informed by the Common Core standards.