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Volume 28, Number 4
July/August 2012

Nine Ways the Common Core Will Change Classroom Practice


In a recent survey, William Schmidt, a University Distinguished Professor of education at Michigan State University, found some good news and bad news for supporters of the Common Core State Standards. The good news was that the vast majority of teachers have read the Standards and nearly all like them. The bad news was that about 80 percent of mathematics teachers said the Standards were “pretty much the same” as their current state standards.

Those teachers might want to take a closer look. While the Common Core State Standards share many features and concepts with existing standards, the new standards also represent a substantial departure from current practice in a number of respects.

In Mathematics
1. Greater Focus. The Standards are notable not just for what they include but also for what they don’t include. Unlike many state standards, which include long lists of topics (often too many for teachers to address in a single year), the Common Core Standards are intended to focus on fewer topics and address them in greater depth. This is particularly true in elementary school mathematics, where the standards concentrate more on arithmetic and less on geometry. Some popular topics (like the calendar) are not included at all, and there are no standards for data and statistics until sixth grade—a controversial change. The reasoning is that teachers should concentrate on the most important topics, like number sense, in depth so that students develop a real understanding of them and are able to move on to more advanced topics.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.