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Five things every teacher should know about CCSS

The Common Core State Standards: They’re a hot-button issue in American education, and as the implementation deadlines for many states draw near, the debate isn’t quieting down. Teachers find themselves on both sides of the dividing line – some for and some against – but the reality is that for 45 states and the District of Columbia, these standards are being put into place, and soon.

Designed to prepare American students for college and the careers of the 21st century, the Common Core State Standards are new academic requirements developed by a coalition of teachers, parents, community leaders and education experts. They are internationally benchmarked, meaning that the expectations laid out by CCSS are on-par with other academically successful countries around the world.

As the deadline for full implementation approaches for many states who have chosen to adopt CCSS, it seems as if worry and confusion is mounting, not receding, as teachers and parents realize they may not have a full understanding of what exactly the Common Core State Standards means for their students. To put your minds at ease, here are five things that every teacher should know about CCSS:

1. CCSS are not federally mandated
A complaint from many CCSS opponents as of late has been that they are an infringement of the federal government on states’ rights to educate students as they see fit. Furthermore, critics of the standards have lamented that they amount to national curricula. Here’s the truth: The Common Core State Standards are not federally mandated. They were voluntarily adopted by the board of education in each participating state. However, adoption of the standards does make states eligible for federal Race to the Top grant money.

2. CCSS are standards, not curricula
This misunderstanding is one that has caused many opponents to be critical of the CCSS. While it is true that the Common Core State Standards lay out particular academic goals and expectations that students of each K-12 grade level must meet, they are not curricula. In other words, the standards specify what students must learn, but they do not tell teachers how they have to teach. Curricula will still be developed on a local level.

3. CCSS focus on depth rather than breadth
When it comes to the Common Core State Standards, the saying “an inch-wide and a mile-deep” certainly applies. Instead of just focusing on how something is done, the developers of the CCSS want students to understand why it is done. Critical thinking is key.

4. CCSS encompasses math and English/language arts
Currently, there are only Common Core State Standards laid out for the subjects of mathematics and English/language arts. However, science may soon follow. The Next Generation Science Standards were recently announced, and Kansas, Maine and Kentucky are poised to become early adopters.

5. CCSS focus on technology integration
Because CCSS are designed to prepare students to be successful 21st-century adults, they emphasize the need for integrating technology into education. Digital literacy and the effective use of the Internet for research are both valuable skills, and some states may begin to embrace blended learning to ensure students use technology to their advantage.

Follow Neal on Twitter for more updates on Common Core and ed-tech innovation discussions.

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