Beth A. Oswald: Common Core State Standards are common sense

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Beth A. Oswald
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More than 100 teachers, superintendents and school board members packed the Senate chambers on March 6 in support of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but several Republican lawmakers are not ready to give up their quest to throw out the Common Core and replace them with “model academic standards” that have the potential to be partisan and would keep our students from being measured against their peers nationally and internationally.

Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, you should know that, for the past four years, Wisconsin teachers have been developing and implementing curricula and lessons to ensure all children meet or exceed the standards outlined in the Common Core.

If you look at the Common Core State Standards, you will see these are clearly common sense standards that will help our students succeed not only in college and the workplace but also in life. For example, here are two seventh-grade standards, one for mathematics and one for language arts:

-- CCSS Math Content 7.RP.A.3: Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. Examples: simple interest, tax, markups and markdowns, gratuities and commissions, fees, percent increase and decrease, percent error.

-- CCSS ELA-Literacy.W.7.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

I know adults who cannot calculate a 20 percent tip at a restaurant. Many people cannot, or choose not to, assess the credibility and accuracy of what they read on the Internet. As a teacher, I think it is great we are teaching our students these valuable life-skills—skills we all would benefit from!

It should be noted that Common Core State Standards do not tell teachers how to teach; they outline skills and concepts that should be mastered by a particular time. Skills, such as those above, are not the basis for corporate or federal domination or a threat to local control. They are simply a baseline for what our students should know and be able to do at a certain grade level. How teachers, schools and districts teach the standards is up to them.

In closing, I challenge the citizens of Wisconsin to practice using one of the language arts skills we currently teach our seventh-graders as part of the Common Core State Standards. Look at the standards for yourselves (corestandards.org). Research the groups that support and criticize the Common Core State Standards. Assess the credibility of these groups. Then make a decision.

Our children deserve common sense decisions made by adults who have no agenda other than preparing Wisconsin's students for success in college, in their careers, and in an increasingly global economy. Please remind your legislators of this as we near the end of the current session.

Beth A. Oswald of Milton is a 2014 Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow (hopestreetgroup.org) and is the 2008 Wisconsin State Teacher of the Year. She teaches at J.C. McKenna Middle School in the Evansville Community School District and has 18 years of teaching experience.

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