Students learning computer programming at Innovation Middle School . Courtesy San Diego Unified School District

By Kevin Nicolls

In my 25 years as an educator, I have weathered countless movements in education. Common Core isn’t the first attempted overhaul, nor do I anticipate it being the last. Whenever we introduce a new approach to education, I always try to evaluate the motives of those promoting the movement. Are they focused on creating a deeper learning experience, or perhaps a profit in introducing new curriculum?

But let’s focus on the education methodology at hand.

Kevin Nicholls

At its foundation, Common Core’s intentions are honorable. The goal is to extend education beyond knowledge and comprehension, creating a synthesis of higher-level learning. The key objectives include:

  • Respond to various demands of audience, task, purpose and discipline
  • Comprehend as well as critique
  • Evaluate evidence
  • Use technology and digital media strategically and capably
  • Come to understand other cultures and perspectives

Any educator can stand behind those goals. At Coronado Pathways Charter School, we have been striving to instill these practices into our students since our opening. Our main focus is to create individualized learning that develops resilient students who can adapt in today’s digital world. This ideology aligns very closely with Common Core objectives.

But, the final verdict on Common Core will be decided in the execution. Right now, we are still waiting to see the full extent of the rollout. Until that time, the jury is still out.

The Problem with Curriculum Implementation

With any new curriculum requirements, there are specific challenges in implementation. Especially with something this extensive, the new curriculum can’t be easily integrated with what teachers are currently using.

There are also discrepancies between learning and testing. Sometimes curriculum is released before tests are designed to measure that specific learning objective. Or, vise versa.

This leaves teachers and students at a disadvantage.

Then there is the hard cost. For traditional schools, replacing textbooks and adjusting course work is very expensive. It’s difficult to ignore the profits being made from designating all the old school material obsolete. While the approach to teaching may have changed, how much did the basics in high school physics? I don’t think Newton has changed any of his laws of motion recently.

But, this is temporary. These issues will be resolved over time, as long as we don’t revamp education in the process.

The Challenge for Common Core 

The biggest challenge Common Core will face is to not increase the achievement gap.

This term, closely tied with learning gap, refers to any significant discrepancy between the academic performance of different groups of students, such as lower income or minority students.

So let’s break this down and see where it might apply:

The basic application of Common Core is to combine elements of math, science, and reading into comprehensive word problems. This allows students to apply several different skills to develop an answer. Once again, the intent to create critical thinkers is great.

But, how does this style of learning set you up to succeed if you are struggling with basic language skills? Or, basic math skills? We can’t ignore basic literacy and math challenges that we have in our schools.

Common Core’s ability to address this challenge will define its success in schools across the nation.

A New Age for Education

Ultimately, my hope is that the integration of Common Core leads us on a path away from cookie-cutter education to more individualized learning. The incredible advancements in technology have given us the tools to fully customize the learning experience to leverage our children’s strengths.

The endless opportunities in customized learning is just one of the many reasons I am so passionate about the advancements Coronado Pathways Charter School is making in education.

Kevin Nicolls is the director of Coronado Pathways Charter School and a lifelong education professional. The school strives to find the conversion point between technology and traditional teaching to provide a personalized learning experiences for students. 

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