Common Core: As more states bail, a student defends effort to create shared benchmarks

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Today, University of Pennsylvania student Clare Lombardo discusses how Common Core State Standards would have made her move from Virginia schools to Georgia schools easier.

Lombardo is a rising sophomore with aspirations in journalism and an interest in education who is contributing blog entries this summer. You can read her most recent column here.

By Clare Lombardo

Georgia students got their first taste of nationwide academic standards during the 2012–2013 school year, when the Common Core made its way into elementary, middle, and high schools. Over the past few years, these new math and language arts benchmarks have raised concerns across the country from students, parents, teachers, and politicians. Many have objected to the additional testing the Common Core Standards will bring starting this time next year.

Teachers have been tasked with finding quality books and materials to teach the new standards, a feat easier said than done. Some students — and their parents — have complained of burdensome math homework and confusing assignments meant to facilitate learning that meets the Common Core math standards. Numerous weaknesses seem to lie in the Common Core’s implementation, which many argue came too quickly and without the financial support necessary.

Forty-five states initially adopted the Common Core, but that number fell to 42 last Thursday when Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill to repeal the standards. Less than a week before, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley did the same for her state. They joined Indiana, the first state to repeal the standards in March. That number may go up soon. Last week, North Carolina’s House and Senate passed separate but similar bills to replace the Common Core standards.

Obviously, state representatives hear concerns about the Common Core loud and clear. I do, too —  I find criticisms of the initiative and its implementation  reasonable. But I still believe that a set of national benchmarks like the Common Core is necessary in the United States. States have long relied on their own distinct standards, and the differences between these standards cause problems for students every year.

When I was in sixth grade, I moved from Virginia to Georgia and found myself repeating math content I’d learned over the prior two years. On the other hand, I was familiar with Virginia history, but had never learned anything about 20th century Europe and felt lost in discussions of World War I in my sixth grade social studies class. In English class I repeated lessons about grammar and poetry I’d already learned in Virginia, while I took my first Spanish class surrounded by kids who’d been taking the language for years.

As I adjusted to school in Georgia, I constantly wondered why the standards weren’t the same.  Millions of families like mine move from state to state every year, and their transitions are made more difficult by the different benchmarks each state sets for students.

 The U.S. military has come out in full force to support the Common Core for this very reason. Most children from military families change schools at least six times before graduating high school.  In the past, inconsistent standards from state to state have caused these children to repeat information or fall behind peers after moving.

 The Common Core’s implementation hasn’t been seamless, and many disagree over what its standards should include. But the effort to introduce a set of national standards is necessary.

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