The Common Core, for those of you unaware, is a set of “standards”, skills and requirements children need to understand by the end of the school year. From a Common Core website, it describes it as “learning goals to help prepare students for college, career and life.”

Common Core has been voluntarily implemented in all but five states, and it is not mandatory federal law. Education is locally controlled and it is up to districts to set up stands for, but Common Core is the norm. Many find the Common Core confusing and frustrating, with misinformation coming from the media and anti-Common Core activists. Many blame confusion with student’s homework problems on the Common Core with teachers defending and authors who say to blame the poorly written curriculum, not the Common Core.

It is about time we started separating the standards, the assessments, and the curriculum. These three parts should be subtitled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Some do think there are elements in the standards where there is room for addition and tweaking, but the assessments are atrocious. Dean Vogel from NEA asked teachers yesterday to raise their hands for standards over assessments. That was a good start in this direction.

The truth is the early adoption of textual materials, such as the scripted mess in NY or the scripted mess out of Chicago, brought us some ugly attempts to manage critical thinking through materials scripted for classroom consumption. As homework, it is useless when anyone tries to assign scripted materials as independent practice, no matter who wrote it.

We all know there are at least five common but differing approaches to doing fractions. Give students the problems and let them solve them without scripted scaffolding that only allows them to do it one way – especially because the scaffolding does not explain why students are not to use other methods or lay out the conceptual ideas reinforced by following the process. For parents and teachers the idea of homework is to practice skills, and it is the answer that matters, because that gives families the sense that their students are progressing well.