Education experts explain Common Core

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX – Some people say Common Core is the worst thing in the history of education. Others say the program is getting a bad rap. A recent conference on Common Core tried to break down what is myth and what is reality.

For years schools were criticized for not making the grade. Then, there was a new set of standards aimed at putting Arizona students ahead of the curve. But now those standards are at the center of controversy.

A panel that was assembled Thursday was the result of a student at Paradise Valley Community College who saw that there are a lot of misconceptions about Common Core, so he invited members of the community and assembled a team of education experts to separate fact from fiction.

While kids are working to make the grade, plenty of parents are failing when it comes to understanding Common Core.

"I had a parent walk in one day and say, 'I just looked at the test you gave and I don't think I could pass this,' and I said, 'Well, I hope not! You haven't been in my class,'" said Andrew Morrill with the Arizona Education Association.

Common Core isn't a curriculum or a lesson plan.

"Those things are still designed at the local level, which is as it should be," Morrill said.

A group of some of the top education experts in the state explained what it is.

"What students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level, period," ASU professor David Garcia said.

Common Core is a set of standards every child must meet each year and if a child transfers from one school to the next, the standards will remain the same.

"They are the same from kindergarten to 12th grade," said Gloria Chavez, a teacher with Mesa Public Schools. "What's different is how much more we teach students under that anchor standard and how the rigor increases."

Chavez wants to bust the myth of where Common Core began. She said the standards were created by educators just like her.

"The standards did not come down from the federal government," Chavez said. "The standards were worked on over a long period of time by a coalition of states and it included educators."
 
Right now, the Common Core blame game is popular among Arizona lawmakers.

"It has become a buzz word for everything wrong in public education," Garcia said.

"A lot of times I think of the Common Core as the baby that was meant to either save the marriage or got blamed for the divorce," Morrill said.

The community college student who brought this panel together is hoping that if we do debate what's best for the classrooms that everyone has a basic education on Common Core first.

"In order to clarify any misconception and confusion that the public might have, the standards are very important and the public needs to know what the standards is and what it's not," Jerry Raburn said.
 
One of the objectives of the Common Core standards is to teach kids critical thinking skills to help them be more successful in life after school.