Common Core is good for Michigan

Mike Lerchenfeldt

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) created a safeguard for state control and a move away from federal control over education. Education leaders in Common Core states are now refocusing their attention on helping teachers and students succeed using the standards.

The Harvard Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) recently released a study on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) implementation. The study is meant to help leaders effectively implement CCSS using evidence about what is working and what is not working.

Despite the additional work that comes with implementing new standards, teachers and principals have largely embraced the Common Core. According to the study, 73 percent of teachers reported that they have embraced the new standards “quite a bit” or “fully.” More than two-thirds of principals believe that the new standards will lead to improved student learning.

Michigan needs consistent standards that will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students. The CCSS is focused on ensuring that students graduate career and college ready.

The critical thinking skills students develop in our classrooms are essential for a successful career. In language arts, students investigate the different techniques used in persuasive writing because of CCSS. They use critical thinking skills such as interpretation and evaluation to analyze reading material.

Interpretation is the ability for students to understand the information. In addition to understanding, students must be able to communicate the information effectively to others. Evaluation is the ability to measure the validity, credibility, and reliability of the information provided. Students learn how to evaluate a website by searching for the author’s and organization’s credentials. The Common Core State Standards support both of these important skills.

Students learn how to search for information by identifying relevant sources and gathering current data. The CCSS pushes students to use logical reasoning to draw conclusions supported by evidence more frequently.

Michigan needs to continue providing professional development and support for instruction. Our school district has aligned CCSS with our curriculum. We have spent a significant amount of resources in developing and implementing these measures.

In advanced math, students learn to use multiple problem-solving strategies that involve critical thinking. This shows that there is more than one way to do math in real life. After students solve a problem, they write sentences explaining what happened and the strategy they decided to use. The CCSS supports them in this skill.

The steps to problem-solving include understanding the problem, developing a plan, and implementing a solution. First, students read the problem for understanding, paraphrase in their own words, and visualize by drawing a picture.

Next, students develop a plan by estimating quantities and sharing strategies with partners. Lastly, students implement a solution by experimenting with different strategies and showing all of their solutions. Students will take time to reflect on the multiple strategies used to solve one problem because of CCSS.

Our ability to innovate depends on our critical thinking and communication skills. We are in a transition from a focus on knowledge itself to a focus on putting that knowledge to use. The recent adoption of the CCSS in Michigan is commendable; implementing them in our schools will only benefit us as a society.

Mike Lerchenfeldt is a math and science teacher in the Chippewa Valley Schools.