Addressing Myths About the Common Core Standards


Myths and Facts on Common Core

Few topics in education are as controversial or as misunderstood as Common Core. Released in 2010, the Common Core Standards set grade-specific expectations that the developers believed would better prepare students for college and the workforce. These standards have been adopted by the majority of the states, but many people still have misconceptions about what Common Core is and what it is not. Below are four pervasive myths about Common Core and the facts behind them.

Myth: Common Core Standards dictate what teachers must teach and how they must teach it.

Fact: The standards do not dictate curriculum or lesson plans. Instead, they provide specific learning goals for students in each grade from kindergarten to 12th grade and let local educators and policymakers decide how to help students reach these goals. For example, one of the English Language Arts Standards for kindergarten directs that students should be able to, “follow words from left to right, top to bottom.” Some schools might use activities, like group reading, or specific books to teach this skill while others might use learning apps, individual coaching or other methods. Because of the number of skills required at each level, schools must use curriculum mapping to align their content with Common Core standards.

Myth: Common Core worksheets are poorly written and are impossible for even educated adults to complete.

Fact: The Common Core Standards do not contain specific worksheets at all. The obscure math problems and other materials that have been featured in the news are from Common Core-aligned products rather than the Common Core Standards themselves. After the release of the Common Core Standards, textbook companies, curriculum writers, testing companies and others developed materials that aligned with them. The quality of these materials varies, and it is up to local governments, schools, and teachers to choose the specific materials they use in their classrooms.

Myth: The Common Core Standards require specific standardized tests and force students to spend more time taking these tests.

Fact: Well before the creation of Common Core, No Child Left Behind required annual testing for students from 3rd to 12th grade. Specific tests were set by the states, and the expectations for students at particular grade levels varied widely. Two new national assessments, PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests, which are longer than most of the older state tests, are Common-Core aligned. Some states have chosen to use these tests while others use both national and state tests and still, others use state tests alone. The length of the national tests along with the fact that some states use more than one test has led to an increase in overall testing, but this increase is not mandated by the actual Common Core Standards.

Myth: Adoption of Common Core Standards limits the teaching of science, social studies and all subjects other than English and mathematics.

Fact: Common Core is comprised only of English Language Arts Standards and Math Standards because the writers felt that these subjects would provide students with the foundation skills they needed to understand all other subjects. They expected teachers of the other subjects to reinforce these critical skills while teaching subject-specific content. The standards themselves, however, include no science, social studies or technical content for elementary students and only supplemental science, social studies and technical literacy standards for students in grades six through 12. States are expected to develop their own specific content standards for all students in these subjects.