Is Common Core Benefiting Students?

Common Core, which is a list of reasoning-based standards within the education system pertaining to all subjects, was introduced nearly 10 years ago in the United States. 

Maddie Harding, Junior Editor

Common Core, which is a list of reasoning-based standards within the education system pertaining to all subjects, was introduced nearly 10 years ago in the United States. 

Common Core continues to be an incredibly divisive and controversial topic: does it truly allow students to use their critical thinking skills that are applicable to the real world? Or does it just continuously stump students and prevent success within their classes? 

After struggling through three years of it, I can confidently say that the latter is unfortunately appropriate to describe my experience with Common Core. However, I will admit that Common Core has the right intentions.

“I prefer to teach Common Core,” said math teacher Amber Vandewarker. “In the old version, I taught honors pre-calc and algebra 1, and I saw a lot of students that could do things but never knew why they were doing anything. It’s interesting even in the real world when you go and ask people ‘did you like math in high school?’ They’re like, ‘no, absolutely not. But we shouldn’t change it.’”

Common Core was intended to show students the reasoning behind the work that they are doing within their classes. In the previous system, students were only taught how to do the work, but not why they were doing the work.

“Historically, we taught math in a way that never applied to the real world,” said Vandewarker. “Now, in Common Core, we work a lot on writing problems and how to attack a problem, which is much more real-world applicable.”

Yes, the intentions behind Common Core are respectable. However, what made the need for Common Core so apparent?

“In the late 90s, they had No Child Left Behind,” said English teacher Carol Byrnes. “They had all kinds of objectives. There were a bazillion standards and they were very prescriptive; we had to teach the lessons exactly as they were written. It wasn’t really promoting kids to think independently or write independently.”

While I understand the reasons behind Common Core as described by Byrnes, what I can’t understand is why it forces schools to strip students of their options for certain subjects, especially math.

Coming into San Pasqual, I watched as classes like pre-calculus, geometry, and others of the sort were slowly disappearing, leaving students with very few options for math classes.

I felt lost coming into such a foreign system, and there was an extreme lack of options for math. Can’t critical thinking be implemented without stripping students of choice when it comes to math?

“I wish San Pasqual would offer a variety of classes, from basic geometry and algebra to math 1 and 2, in case people want to have more options,” said senior Mariah Lingnau. 

One argument in support of Common Core is that it helps prepare students for standardized testing, like the SAT and the ACT.

“I think Common Core has helped me during the SAT but not during the ACT,” said Lingnau.

Most standardized tests do require a base of common core critical thinking. However, according to a study conducted by Mengli Song who writes for the website, the way Common Core is being taught may not be very beneficial.

“Our study revealed that the adoption of the new college-and career-ready standards had significant negative effects in grade 4 reading,” Song explained. “We also found a significant negative seven-year impact on grade 8 mathematics. While most of our results were statistically non-significant, they tended to be in the negative direction.”

While Common Core has honorable intentions, it should be executed better and in a way that is more inclusive for everyone so that all students are more successful within the Common Core system.