Two articles from the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell last week focused on the classroom-level implementation of the Common Core, Ohio’s new learning standards. O’Donnell’s reports stand in the vein of other reports from across the nation about Common Core—for example, click on the following link for the Hechinger Report’s excellent series. The school visits were conducted at the Berea, Orange, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, and Bedford school districts, all located in the Cleveland area. It is evident from these reports that the Common Core standards are dramatically changing how instruction and learning happen in Ohio’s classrooms.
In the English classroom, teachers are now requiring students to cite evidence from the text, in order to support their conclusions. One educator remarked, “It’s not enough to just say what you think the theme [of a text] is. You need specific evidence.” Another educator compared this mode of instruction with past instructional practices: “Kids used to talk more about how they felt about the theme. . . .It was more about their feelings than the evidence.” Meanwhile, in the math classroom, teachers are creating lessons that have “real-world” twists to them, aimed at better ingraining mathematical concepts. According to one high school math teacher, under Ohio’s old standards, “You wouldn’t relate things to why you would ever need them. . . .Now the focus is much more with practical standards: Here is what actually translates to real life.”
The Common Core continues to draw fire. But these Common Core critics ought to temper their political fervor with a dose of classroom reality. Reading these Plain Dealer articles are a good start. Better yet, however, naysayers might want to simply ask their own kids’ teachers about how they view the Common Core. They might just discover that the standards are pretty darn good.
Patrick O’Donnell, “Inside the Common Core English Classroom: Showing the Evidence,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 8, 2013
Patrick O’Donnell, “Inside the Common Core Math Classroom: Real-world Context, Deeper Understanding and Mastery,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 8, 2013.