September 22, 2013

Maine shouldn't abandon Common Core standards

Letter to the editor

I support Maine's adoption of the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. Maine is one of 45 states that have adopted these standards for K-12 students. Some people want to back away from these new standards. That would be a mistake. I am an educator with 30 years' experience teaching math in the public schools, including nine as an elementary mathematics specialist.

The Common Core State Standards were developed by teachers, mathematicians and experts in mathematics education. The standards identify what our students should know and understand in order to be ready for college and careers. They are not a curriculum; local districts and individual teachers still have the power to develop curriculum, choose textbooks and design lessons.

Based on research about how children learn math, and taking into account what top-scoring countries such as Singapore and Finland expect of their students at each grade, the Common Core State Standards represent an improvement over any standards Maine has followed. I say that with some humility since I was a member of the team that revised Maine's Learning Results for Mathematics in 2007.

The Common Core State Standards are better because students are expected to learn fewer topics but in greater depth. The focus is on deeper understanding rather than superficial coverage of many topics. In addition, the Common Core standards expect students to develop reasoning skills, construct logical arguments and respond to the explanations that other students offer as they learn math.

The Common Core State Standards in math are rigorous. It will take time and effort on the part of Maine schools to understand fully how to best achieve them. We have started that process, and we shouldn't back away now. Maine is on the right track. We should stay on board.

Jim Cook


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