How Scary is Common Core?

October is here at last!

This time of the year brings with it many things- the transition into autumn, the (oftentimes surreal) reminder that the end of the year is approaching, and, sometimes, the start of October means we even gain an hour back in the day (this one I look forward to all year).

And of course, October also brings the spooks and scares of Halloween. Families are decorating their houses with spider webs and jack-o-lanterns, candy is being pulled from the shelves at an increasingly fast rate, and children are excitedly asking each other “what’s our costume gonna be?!”

Something a little less traditionally scary, but that still seems to frighten parents and educators alike, are the Common Core State Standards.

(Cue lightning and spooky music)

Ok, so you might be thinking “well this just took a strange turn…”

But think about it: the Common Core Standards have been controversial since their original creation in 2010. The National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) developed Common Core as a set of state-led education standards. Its overall purpose was to provide a structured layout of what students should know in their K-12 education (Spring, 2011). Each grade has certain standards set by the state, and teachers can develop their curriculum based on those standards. Standardized tests are then used to assess whether or not the set standards were met.

Ok, so now you’re probably thinking “Alright, that’s a mouthful. So just where is the scary part?”

Well, back in 2010, the creation of the Common Core Standards meant a whole lot of change.

Teachers had to adjust their teaching to incorporate the standards. When it came time for their students to get tested, teachers feared that a lower performance would reflect upon them as having deficiencies in their teaching.

Parents and guardians had to adjust the way they helped their children with their homework. Many parents often report being nervous and scared about not being able to help their children, because the techniques and strategies are unfamiliar to them.

Students had to adjust as well. They were expected to develop skills and knowledge that adhere to the tests and standards. This meant new structures, techniques, and strategies.

I guess the overall point here is that change can be scary. 

But Common Core doesn’t have to be. 

At the heart of Common Core lies constructivism. Constructivism is a theory of learning that proposes that children learn through their creation (or construction) of experiences. It does not believe, as some theories do, that all learning principals reside in the mind, and are just waiting to be tapped into (Shunk, 2012). Rather, constructivists believe that children are active learners, and develop knowledge for themselves through their own self-regulation and their experiences with others.

This means that teachers have the opportunity to facilitate their students’ learning in an active way because they have more freedom in writing their curriculum. The more creative the educator, the more opportunities for active learning!

It is understandable that parents and guardians would grow nervous at the thought of not being able to help their student’s with their academic work (such as math, which can sometimes be scary in and of itself). But parents should think of their role more as a guide and cheerleader, someone who helps where they can. The teaching of the curriculum is the role of the teacher. This is why what is of most importance is oftentimes good and adequate communication between educators and parents. This way, the standards can be worked around in a creative way in order to support each student where they need it.

Common Core doesn’t have to be scary. It’s meant to help, not hinder. We just need to learn how best to use it.

That way, we can leave the spooks and scares to Halloween instead!

By Sadie Keller


Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Spring, J. (2013). American education (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Mc-Graw Hill Education.






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