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Smarter Living: Examining Common Core

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Times are changing and so are school courses. If you have a child in school, chances are that you've heard about the change in curriculum to Common Core State Standards.

In this week's edition of "Smarter Living," Sharon Tazewell looks into what exactly Common Core is, what's different from the previous curriculum and why the change was made.

Common Core is a state-led initiative adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The goal is to better prepare students for college or a job.

Michael Maher, Assistant Dean for Professional Education and Accreditation at North Carolina State's College of Education, explained that one of the main functions of Common Core is creating a level and similar playing field.

"You might have 50 states running 50 different sets of standards, (but) we now have a common set of standards that states are either using in both mathematics and English language arts," he said.

Maher says he sees a lot of positives with Common Core.

"It encourages reading primary source documents," he said.

The new standards establish benchmarks for reading and math in each grade from kindergarten through high school. For example, a first grade reader should be able to use a story's pictures and details to describe its characters and then in second grade be able to compare and contrast two versions of a story.

"Isn't that what we want students to do? Read informational text and being able to understand  how to read something and look for bias and things of that nature?," Maher asked.

In math, a first grader should be able to add and subtract and by third grade should know how to properly multiply and divide.

"Some of the great things of the mathematics content is that it looks at children's development and structures math teachings in a way that matches kid's understanding of math concepts," Maher said.

Math focuses not only on the how, but the why of problem solving. Students will see less of the typical fill-in-the-bubble exams under Common Core.

The new math standards are more rigorous because they require students to think and reason more and has a repetition of themes throughout allowing students to build deep understanding of the concepts.

Common Core also has its critics. Maher said he thinks a lot of the negative focus is based on misinformation of what Common Core is and isn't.

"They're not federal standards. They were not created by the U.S. Department of Education," he said. "These were developed independently by states and states opted in."

There's also a cost.

"There's always a cost with implementation. Any time we change standards, we've got to bring people up to speed," he said.

Maher added that moving teachers out of the old math and language arts curriculum to Common Core are one-time costs.

The only states who have yet to adopt the standards are Alaska, Texas, Nebraska and Virginia. Minnesota has adopted only the English standards.

According to Maher, UNC system schools have been teaching their future teachers the new standards for years.

This all leads to the big question: is Common Core working?

The answer may not be easy to answer because it may be too early to tell right now.

Kentucky was the first state to fully implement the standards and their math and English scores dropped by one-third. This could highlight the importance of making sure that parents advocate for their children by asking questions of their child's teachers and making sure their child understands.

For more information about Common Core, you can visit their website by clicking here.

Sharon Tazewell

Sharon anchors WNCN Today weekday mornings starting at 4:30! Her background has helped mold her into an outstanding journalist and a perfect fit for our community. Sharon's also a trained pianist and a member of NABJ. More>>

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