Common Core Questions

Screenshot 2014-03-06 09.10.57It is the middle of March, your student arrives home from school as usual looking for a snack.   After he/she starts munching, you ask, “What did you learn at school today?”  The unenthusiastic response, “I dun-know.”   Repeating the same conversation you have had many times, you say in bewilderment, “You spent all day at school and you don’t know what you learned!”  Exasperated student says, “I don’t know, we learned lots of stuff.”   The conversation ends as usual without you knowing if or what your student learned at school.

Sound familiar?  Yet, the questions remain; What are students learning at school?

Should a first grader be asked to “solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20”?

Should 9-10 graders be expected to “produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience?”

The above questions refer to two specific standards in the much discussed Common Core.   Other than the conversations with your own children at the end of the school day, have you ever thought much about what we expect students to know at each grade level?   Have you wondered what is the basic level of academic achievement that we should require for a high school diploma?  Speaking of measurements, what is a “basic level of academic achievement?”  What should a student know in science and social studies?  If you follow the news at all, you’ve probably noticed the almost daily articles and news reports covering the debates taking place in our state and nation regarding the Common Core Standards.   Unfortunately, most of those debates have been derailed by political agendas and are not asking the important questions.

Objectives based on standards are very important for learning.   If we don’t have clear expectations for our students, they won’t know what we want them to achieve.   In the old days, standards were referred to as “scope and sequence.”   Unfortunately, the changes in terminology nor the debates surrounding the Common Core Standards have not helped parents, student or educators understand what should be expected of students.

Due to the inadequacy of the Alaska Grade-Level Expectations, the Copper River School District adopted the Common Core Standards in 2009.    The Board of Education did not give up any of its local authority by using the content in the Common Core Standards.   Neither did the Board agree to any restrictions or other agendas that have become associated with the Common Core.

There are legitimate concerns about the Common Core, most significant are the regulatory efforts to use the standards as a way to dilute local control in public education.   Clearly there are some extremely unhelpful agendas that have been attached to the Common Core.  The Copper River School District is only interested in providing a globally competitive education based on factual content about the world.


Given the attention it has received, we could all benefit from an opportunity to think carefully about the Common Core and standards in general.   With your help, I’d like to begin a regular series of blog posts about the Common Core.   Parents, students, teachers, administrators, Board Members, and interested community members should all be invested in what we want our students to learn.

How can you help?   Use this link to submit questions about the Common Core and educational standards. Or, you can email questions directly to me at    I’ll use the questions as prompts for blog posts and to create a FAQ (frequently asked questions) about educational standards page on our website.

Look for the first post within the next few weeks.   Thanks in advance for your help.

Published by

Michael J.


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