Common Core – School standards initiated by a coalition of governors
Even though they're unsure about what it is or what it does, plenty of New Jersey residents have been quick to attack the Common Core education standards adopted by the state. Common Core has gained more attention in recent months due to controversy surrounding the newest version of standardized testing.
In a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind survey, more than half of respondents in New Jersey said they have heard either "just a little" or "nothing at all" about Common Core. Still, they had an opinion of the standards, with just 17 percent expressing approval.
What New Jerseyans may not know is that these standards have actually been part of the state's education system since 2010, when they were first promoted by a bipartisan coalition of state governors and education department heads.
"About 85 percent of the standards - we were there already," said Patricia Wright, executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. "The Common Core, for us, was very close to what we were already doing."
Wright described Common Core as a set of "very high standards" that targets making students "college and career-ready." It applies to language arts and mathematics.
The K-12 standards do not craft new curricula, however. It's up to each school district to break the standards into clear learning goals for students at each grade level.
"The Common Core definitely made me rethink my instruction," said a second-grade teacher in Middlesex County who wished to remain anonymous. "I have moved into more nonfiction text and materials, and am finding ways to incorporate more technology."
The newer standards, the teacher said, should produce an easier transition for students who have to move to a different state.
More than 40 states in the U.S. have signed on to the standards, crafted by educators and field experts from across the nation at the behest of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, said he's in favor of the updated standards, but testing was implemented too quickly.
The PARCC exam launched in grades 3-11 in March, and another round is scheduled for May.
"It takes years to put in new standards and create a curriculum around it before you even start testing," Steinhauer said. "If you had to do it all over again, the way you would have done it was not to rush through and slam everything in within a couple years."