To share my view of the Common Core, I share some answers to questions, some of which I've been asked some of which are hypothetical, based on broader discussion. In any setting, whether it be deep professional learning about the Common Core or casual discussion, I find it important to bring it back to the mathematics which children are asked to do in any system.
So what is the Common Core, really?
The Common Core State Standards in Mathematics is three things at once: a mathematical document which binds together the topics of K-12 mathematics, a pedagogical document which informs the teaching of those topics, and a policy document which describes our aspirations for what children should know. It is not a curricular map or a testing framework, though it is the basis for such.
So why do you like it so much?
As I've said before, it supports and calls for having students do "juicy math" - that is, math which deserves their attention. It is also one of the finest examples I know of balancing pedagogical considerations and mathematical care. The more I understand its aspirations for what children should know and how it supports attaining those aspirations, and especially the more I see what's being produced for curricula and instruction based on the Common Core, the more I get excited that we'll be able to address some significant problems we're facing now in K-16 education.
What problems are we facing?
A central one is that across the country roughly 40% of students who enter a 2-year or 4-year college need some remediation, which means taking classes which don't count for college credit (but still cost tuition money) because they aren't ready for classes which do count for college credit. These are the students who are making it onto some postsecondary campus, and too many of them cannot even add or order fractions correctly.
Well maybe college isn't for everyone? You may think it is important as a professor, but that's rather self serving, isn't it?
I'm not an expert about these questions, but I have started to learn research which informs policy in this area. First, look at this graph showing jobs lost in the recession. Really, please take a look. This recession is hitting those with only high-school or less pretty much exclusively at this point.
[Digression: I personally feel we should both have a strong social safety net and should work on education and training so more people can be successful in finding meaningful employment.]
Also, some experts have found that the same skills which indicate college readiness correlate with an ability to (re)-train for multiple careers over a lifetime. And as a content expert I look at what we are doing now and see so much room for improvement. We can help students become better problem-solvers, more capable in areas ranging from personal finance to science literacy to being informed citizens. As long as we're having children do math every day, let's make it a meaningful exercise.
to be continued