ABC 10 studies the pros and cons of Common Core curriculum

MARQUETTE — The term common core has became contentious. ABC 10’s Caleb Scanlon shows us both sides of common core at its core.

“This idea that we can create one massive, all encompassing curriculum that’s going to be perfect for that student and every student is really a silly idea,” said Representative Ed McBroom.

Common Core, an initiative that officials say within its core was designed to create consistent steps in education, no matter where students attend high school.

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“We wanted to make sure that students were continuing to be able to do the computations,” said Seaborg Mathematics/Science Center Director Chris Standerford, “but that they also had the opportunity to go a little bit deeper with the number sense and figuring out how mathematics really operates.”

“It really emphasizes digging deeper into the learning,” said Seaborg Mathematics/Science Program Coordinator and STEM Consultant Renee Kivioja, “versus skimming the surface of multiple topics. It kind of takes everything and puts it together. It emphasizes the process versus the answer.”

But as time goes on, a growing cloud of dissatisfaction has turned into a raging storm. The term Common Core itself has became contentious. Bills that would halt the adoption of Common Core curriculum standards in Michigan schools have drawn positive responses from large groups. For various reasons, some schools have abandoned the curriculum altogether.

“We’re kind of going back to meat and potatoes. Common Core has it’s major goal; college and career readiness,” said Director of Education/Evangelization Mark Salisbury, “which in itself is a great goal for education but we in the catholic system really start with a different beginning in mind. That is, the relationship with christ and what we’re trying to give first off is develop that friendship with christ as the beginning of what we do in our education. After that we lead into christian anthropology.”

So where does this opposition stem from? A lot of the antagonism surrounding common core goes back to how it was implemented after its inception in 2010. Common Core was NOT a mandate. It was developed by the council chief state school officers and later adopted by the governors. But early in its inception, it was linked to federal funding.

“If you wanted to be able to apply for or be eligible for the top funds there were many hoops you had to jump through and this was one of them,” said Associate Superintendent (MARESA) Deb Asanao, “so I think that resulted in a bit of bitter taste in people’s mouths early on.”

Another argument many have made is that local schools should decide what’s best for their students instead of the state.

“There’s a lot of aspects that really remove our local ability to adapt our curriculum to our local needs. That’s always been my hang up, especially when you bring up the one size fits all standardized test. That really dictates what’s taught in the curriculum.”

Some opponents claim efficiency is sacrificed in favor of learning to solve a problem in multiple ways.

“It’s about that number sense,” added Standerford, “it’s about that love of mathematics, it’s about that ability to problem solve. Even with my own children I see a huge difference in how they bring home math problems and how they work through their homework than how I remember working through my homework. They’re throwing out the different ideas to me like, ‘I think I could solve it by drawing this picture or I also learned that I could bump this value up and work backwards from there.'”

“It has been noticeably personally as a teacher,” Kivioja mentioned, “to see students who haven’t been successful in the past to start to say, ‘I kind of like this. This makes more sense. I understand why we’re doing it.’ For some students that just never have that feeling, they’re able to get that feeling. I feel like it really addresses all of the different levels.”

While there are some who feel this way, a large number of people remain in opposition.

“I know there were many of us about my age who were victims of that, ‘new math’ back in those days. Some people never got over it. Change involves some risk,” added Asano, “and some change is really, really good. And other change we look at and say that wasn’t the way we thought it would be. So in this change, ask questions, watch, seek to understand, and then if you still have some difficulty with it let’s talk about what we can develop as an alternative from there.”