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A Sample Comparative Essay on the Pros and Cons of Common Core State Standards

In 2009, Americans began taking steps to improve the educational quality in public schools. This new program is called Common Core State Standards. The purpose of this sample comparative essay from Ultius is two-fold. First: to define what Common Core State Standards are, how they have changed the way we approach teaching America’s children, and what people are saying about this new way of teaching. And second: To allow our readers to see just what they would receive should they want to order a sample comparative essay on Common Core. Ultius offers a wide variety of professional writing services and our customer service is exemplary. If, after reading the following essay, you’re still on the fence about completing your project or the finer points of a comparative essay, visit our website for more assistance.

The pros and cons of the Common Core State Standards

We have always been told that children are our future. We live in a world where education has become a necessity in order to succeed as contributing, well-functioning, and productive members of society. In order for students to obtain the best level of education possible, we must start when children are in their earliest years of school. Adequate development of math, English, science, and social studies skills is important in order for these children to gain the competitive edge necessary when competing for jobs and entrance into the global economy. We’ve tried adjusting standards before, but did No Child Left Behind work? There is much debate on what effect, positive or negative, it’s had.

It has been found in years past that the testing and curriculum being provided in the American public school system was not up to snuff. Julia Ryan of The Atlantic writes:

The test, which is administered every three years and focuses largely on math, but includes minor sections in science and reading, is often used as a snapshot of the global state of education. The results, published today, show the U.S. trailing behind educational powerhouses like Korea and Finland.

What Is Common Core?

In order to better understand how Common Core Standards, or Common Core is helping American students compared to older curriculum, it is important to understand what it is. What is Common Core? “Pure and simple, they are descriptions of the skills students should have at each grade level in English/language arts and math by the time they finish high school. They’re not a detailed, day-to-day curriculum; they’re a broad outline of learning expectations from which teachers or district leaders craft a curriculum” (Gewertz). Many wonder about Common Core standards and how they relate to ACT and SAT test preparation as well.

Important facts about the development and progression of Common Core:

  1. The idea began in 2007.
  2. Common Core officially launched in 2009.
  3. All but four states jumped on board in 2010-2011.
  4. By 2015, a backlash caused several states to unadapt the standards, and nearly half backed out of their initial promises to use testing methods. (Gewertz)

Catherine Gewertz of Education Week notes:

English, language arts, and math standards, there were about 160 pages published on the new standards. The backlash was due in part by the involvement of the federal government.The idea that all states would be expected to share one set of standards offended conservative activists and lawmakers, who saw the initiative as an encroachment on the American tradition of states’ rights. And it offended more liberal ones, too, who feared it could undermine teachers’ attempts to tailor instruction to students’ and communities’ needs. (Gewertz)

Common Core English and Language Arts Standards

Now that we know what Common Core is, let’s take a look at how curriculum has been affected by it. Similar to the changes to the SAT essay in 2016, Common Core English and Language Arts (ELA), focus has shifted from writing and reading skills, to tackling more complex literary and informational texts that encourage higher vocabulary, analytical, and problem solving skills (CCSSI). The Common Core Standards have been compiled into checklists that explain the milestones that students are expected to meet. These are some examples of the Anchor Standards for Reading for grades K – 12:

  • Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
  • Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
  • Interpret words and phrases as they are used in text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take. (The Curriculum Corner)

Common Core Mathematics

In regard to mathematics, Common Core has completely altered the way that students are being taught versus before the adoption. Many are saying that the new way of performing mathematical operations makes very little sense, but Joel Weisenthal of Business Insider explains using the following subtraction example of 474-195:

A. The Old Way:

  • Try 4-5. Nope. So cross out 7, carry the 1. Add 1 to 4. Now subtract 6 5 from 5. Write down 0.
  • Wait. That’s wrong. It’s not add 1+4. It’s 10+4. So cross out my 1. 10+4=14. Minus 5. Write down 9.
  • Next subtract 9 from 7. Carrying again. But remember it’s 9 from 6. Dammit. Cross out 4. Add a one … wait, a 10 to 7 … err, rather 6. 16 minus 9 is 7.
  • The four is crossed out. So it’s a three. Minus one
  • My answer is: 279.

B. Common Core:

They key (to the new way) is realizing this subtraction problem is asking you to measure the distance between 474 and 195. You do that, in turn, by measuring the distance between landmarks (easy, round numbers). It’s turning math into a road map.

  • So, 474-195. Starting point is 195. How do we get to 474? Well, first we’ll drive to 200.
    1. 200 is 5 from 195.
    2. 400 is 200 from 200.
    3. 474 is 74 from 400.
    4. 74+200 = 274.
    5. 274 + 5 = 279. (Weisenthal) says:

The math standards provide clarity and specificity rather than broad general statements. They endeavor to follow the design envisioned by William Schmidt and Richard Houang (2002), by not only stressing conceptual understanding of key ideas, but also by continually returning to organizing principles such as place value and the laws of arithmetic to structure those ideas.

The Pros and Cons of Common Core Standards: The Debate

Though there are arguments for and against Common Core, those that are for it have an impressive set of reasons why children should be taught this

The arguments for Common Core include:

  • The Common Core Standards provide national continuity in education.
  • The Common Core Standards have been designed to leave room for tailoring to specific state populations (states must adopt at least 85% of the standards, leaving 15% to tweak).
  • The Common Core Standards prepare students for a competitive global economy. (“Pros and Cons”)

The arguments against Common Core are equally strong. The cons include:

  • The Common Core Standards cannot be tailored to all of the diverse populations of our nation.
  • The Common Core Standards is a program pushed by the government – Adopt the program or no money.
  • The Common Core Standards do not guarantee improvements in testing on the global scale. (“Pros and Cons”)

It is clear on which position each state has taken in terms of Common Core by their individual methods of adoption.

Common Core State Standards AdoptionSource:Academic Benchmarks

States that have withdrawn, not adopted or partially adopted Common Core.

Withdrawn Not Adopted Partial Adoption
Oklahoma Alaska Minnesota
Missouri Texas
Louisiana Nebraska
Tennessee Virginia
South Carolinia
New Jersey

The pros and cons of Common Core State Standards: A Conclusion

It would be impossible to address all of the nuances of Common Core Standards in one piece due its vast circumference. It is safe to say that it is a new way of teaching that has been embraced in a myriad of different ways. The intent is for America’s children to gain the best possible education in order to be successful adults. Common Core seems to at least want to bridge the gap of discrimination in education. It is important that we understand different types of teaching, and Common Core provides that.

Works Cited

Academic Benchmarks. “Common Core State Standards Adoption Map – Academic Benchmarks.” Academic Benchmarks. 2015. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

CCSSI. “Key Shifts in English Language Arts.” Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2016. Web. 21 Aug. 2016. “Mathematics Standards.” Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2016. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

Gewertz, Catherine. “The Common Core Explained.” Education Week. 2016. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

“Pros and Cons.” Thinking About the Common Core Standards. n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

Ryan, Julia. “American Schools vs. the World: Expensive, Unequal, Bad at Math.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

The Curriculum Corner. “Updated Common Core Checklists – The Curriculum Corner 123.” The Curriculum Corner 123. 2014. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

Weisenthal, Joe. “There’s A New Way Of Doing Subtraction – And It’s So Much Better Than How You Learned In School.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 2014. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

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