A Common Core theme: Focus

May 07, 2013
K-8 Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics One of the key goals of the Common Core State Standards is to encourage and push students to go deeper: to develop stronger skills and greater understanding. This is true for both the math and the language arts standards. The authors feel we live “in a mile-wide, inch-deep world,” and that students need a higher level of achievement, deeper understanding, and the ability to reason and apply their knowledge for success in college and careers. The word they use over and over to reflect this shift is FOCUS. The Publishers Criteria for math says this: “We have come to see ‘narrowing’ as a bad word — and it is a bad word, if it means cutting arts programs and language programs. But math has swelled in this country. The standards are telling us that math actually needs to lose a few pounds.” And that’s just what the authors of the math standards did. The new standards focus on fewer things, more intensely. For example, the early grades focus on addition and subtraction, the measurement of quantities, and the ability to understand and apply those concepts. It’s about mastering the skills that matter. At Scholastic we talk about “the Core within the Core,” the foundational skills that students need to be ready for Algebra and more advanced math. Here’s an interesting video on the concept of focus in the Common Core. FOCUS isn’t just in the math standards. The theme is woven throughout the ELA standards too. In the context of reading, it’s all about a focus on “text”. Text should be central to all student learning, the standards make clear, and through close, careful reading, students are able to develop the knowledge and vocabulary that is so crucial to the learning process. Is FOCUS a good thing? I’ve heard the argument that focusing on fewer concepts more deeply could help ensure that fewer students fall behind — since it allows more time for the mastery of concepts that matter most. And it also, in theory, makes for clearer, simpler standards. But have the standards stripped away anything you feel is important? Let me know what you think!