3 Reasons to Celebrate the Common Core State Standards, and 3 to Be Cautious

Posted by

CelebratecautionBy Rita Platt

The debate about the pros and cons of the Common Core State Standards  (CCSS) is raging! At this point most of the arguing is fueled by policy-makers and academics, and as is often the case, the voices of classroom teachers are largely absent.  I teach several graduate classes on the CCSS and often the only thing my students “know” about the standards is garnered from the arguments and not from the standards themselves. Set politics aside for a moment and study the standards! Then, we can get back to politics. Teachers, let’s start a conversation! How are you feeling about the CCSS? What should we be celebrating? What should we be watching out for?


1.  The standards are good!   The CCSS are straightforward and sound. Leave all of the politics out and read through them. They really are good. One big bonus is that they are articulated by each grade. Finally we don’t leave it all up to 4th, 8th, and 12th grade—we have a guide to the approximate age when students can master learning targets (not the be-all-end-all, but a guide; see Watch Out!). A careful perusal of the standards reveals that they really are a “staircase of increasing complexity.” Look at a “learning progression” analysis of a standard (like the one linked above) to see how standards grow through the levels.

2.  The potential for collaboration! The CCSS add a measure of specificity to our sharing that has never existed before. We finally have a platform for a common conversation across states. Using this shared base we can work together to create strong resources and assessments. More importantly, we can problem-solve across space and time. Imagine   how we can use Web 2.0 technologies; lesson plan wikis, YouTube channels, Twitter chats, Live Binders, Google Docs (the list is endless) to share ideas. Check here for a preview of what’s to come. Teachers, we can and should be a powerhouse in education—and we barely have a voice now. The CCSS unite us and what unites us has the potential to make us stronger!

3.  They promote deep-thinking! There is a wonderful focus on deep-thinking throughout the standards. Beginning in first grade, learners are expected to identify author’s message and guess what? Not only can they do it, but the conversations sparked are amazing! Students are also learning to use detailed, informed evidence to support their assertions. This is a skill Americans are sorely in need of, watch the “news” if you have any doubt about the need to be competent in the ability to cite evidence to back up our opinions and ideas.

Watch out!

1.  Testing companies are making way too much money! And, perhaps worse, the new tests promise to take a big chunk of instructional time.  We should all be wary of this.  Data-based teaching is, without a doubt, a best-practice. The question is; what kinds of tests yield the best data. The answer is; probably not the kind being written by Smarter Balanced and Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC).

2.  Big Business is using the CCSS as a marketing tool. There will soon be a gazillion products available to help teachers with CCSS implementation. They won’t all be good but they will all make money. So will countless outside consultants. We must advocate for spending money carefully. The ill-fated implementation of No Child Left Behind lined the pockets of many opportunists and scammers. Teachers, let’s work together to not let this happen again.

3.  Learning cannot be automated, not all kids learn at the same pace and that is not only normal, it is unavoidable, and it is okay. While the heart and soul of the standards are good, this is a major flaw in their philosophical foundation. The standards should be a guide. But, we are human beings and by our very nature cannot be forced to fit an arbitrary time- line. Standards are antithetical to a grade-level system. Students must move through standards at their own paces. This is even truer for English language learners and students with other special learning needs. We don’t expect everyone to walk or talk at exactly the same time and this should be true for all learning and developmental milestones. We must begin problem-solving and advocating for students’ rights to learn at their own paces.

There. I went first. Now you? Come on? What do you think?


Rita Platt is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate students. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls SD in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts.


  1. Hi Rita! Thank you for sharing this article with me through the PDI class I am taking. You have made some very good points for Common Core and cautions that we need to watch out for. I have learned a lot from my classes this summer about Common Core and as an educator, I like that our country has the opportunity to be on the same page across the states. I too am concerned about all kids moving at the same pace. As we know, they are individuals with strengths and weaknesses that we all have. Some students need more time to develop or learn in a different way. How will we address this instead of saying the teacher is failing the child? We test our students too much and spend less and less time instructing; how can this be addressed? Thank you for sharing the article with me. I also wish there were more teachers like you who are willing to share their ideas for FREE-yes, I did say FREE. Now everyone is looking to make a buck off of everything instead of a sharing community where we help one another without a price tag attached.

  2. Amanda,

    Thanks for the great comments. I’m with you solidly on two points. 1. ENOUGH with the TOXIC testing! 2. ENOUGH with the trying to make money off of everything. Teachers Pay Teachers? Really? What ever happened to plain old collegiality?


  3. Pingback: Education Reform: Politics Trumps Reason | We Teach We Learn

  4. Thank you for sending this article to me. CCSS have been a topic of debate amongst educators and there seems to be no middle ground. I concur that the standards are sound and give many opportunities to collaborate amongst grade-level teams, vertical teams, and now, across state borders.
    I also appreciate your comments about testing. Many teachers are using the Smarter Balanced assessments to guide their instruction. This practice is detrimental to students overall learning and should not be used as a guide, rather testing is just a “peek” into a student’s overall abilities. It is just one piece in the puzzle. The real learning takes place in the classroom over time, over many exposures, and at an individual pace.
    I do however believe that teachers should be compensated for their great ideas. Maybe not TPT, but I have to admit, with the lack of CCSS materials provided by my district, I have occasionally used TPT. I find the ideas of others quite useful and then I’m able to manipulate the products in a way that will work for my teaching style, objectives, and desired “flow.”

    • Rita Platt says:

      You are so right about testing being just one piece of the puzzle! Thanks for your insightful comments!