School of Education plans around Common Core

New York State adopted the National Common Core Learning Standards in 2010, planning to fully implement these standards during the 2014-15 school year. Although these standards are for children and adolescents in preschool through 12th grade, they impact education coursework for college students as well. Professor of the School of Education Literary Division Ernest Balajthy explained that the CCLS came about when it became clear that No Child Left Behind wasn’t going to work. These grade-by-grade standards, which have been adopted by 45 states, are designed to prepare students for both college and career.

“The target was CCR, College and Career Readiness, and being at the 50th percentile is no longer good enough because students in the 50th percentile don’t go on to college. The estimate is that the Common Core State Standards raised the bar for student performance by about 45 percent,” Balajthy said.

Dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education Anjoo Sikka said the new standards the CCLS have adopted are fine, but the problems arise because there is no set way for these standards to be taught or reached.

“The Common Core Standards don’t necessarily tell you how to teach. It tells you a little bit of what to teach, even though they say they don’t tell you what to teach, but it is. Really, you don’t have to go by the sequence of the standards,” Sikka said.

Assistant professor for the School of Education Kelly Keegan explained that New York’s Common Core Learning Standards are comprised of approximately 85 percent national standards and 15 percent New York-specific standards.

As schools across the nation adapt to the rapid implementation of these standards, professors of the School of Education at Geneseo face curriculum changes as well. In order to best prepare their students to become teachers, professors must ensure that their students have a thorough understanding of the Common Core.

“They have to know it,” Keegan said. “They have to know it going into not only a job interview but also if they’re going to serve their students well, which is the role of a good teacher.”

“They need to know how to best function in whatever academic climate they’re going to be working within,” she said. “This is what’s being asked of them right now. They can teach well, they will teach well, they have to teach well.”

Balajthy described the four main concentrations he has when it comes to preparing his students to teach the Common Core. These include making his students understand how to be politically involved, since he considers this a political rather than an educational movement, to understand the fallacies and false teachings of the Common Core, to understand the tests themselves and to be able to prepare their future students to take the new Common Core tests.

But even with these changes to the curriculum education majors are taught and will soon have to teach to their own students, the Common Core is not necessarily as negative as some perceive it to be.

“Lots of students hear about this and they think it’s so overwhelming [and] that it’s not a good time to be a teacher, and I don’t think that’s true,” Keegan said.