This week I prepared a power point explaining the Iowa Core and its impact on student learning for a presentation to a group of five Tea Party members.  The group was small due to predicted poor weather, however, there was great discussion in our two hours together.  It appears there is a great deal of misinformation out there, and it is always good to dialogue about trends in education.  I know that we all have the best interest of students at heart even if we don’t agree on best directions.

The greatest misinformation is a confusion of Core being a curriculum which it is not.  Decisions about curriculum are made locally in each school district.  There are Core aligned curricular materials on the market, but that is up to each and every school district to determine the materials and resources they will use to implement the Core standards in classrooms.  Local control is maintained over curriculum decisions.

Core consists of standards K-12 in the areas of English Language Arts (ELA) and Math.  In the book PATHWAYS TO THE COMMON CORE by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman, the authors describe the importance of the ELA Core Standards in the following ways:  (Calkins, 2012)

  • Provides an urgently needed wake-up call because reading scores have flat-lined
  • Places a stronger emphasis on higher-level comprehension skills
  • Places an equal weight on reading and writing
  • Stresses the importance of critical citizenship
  • Emphasizes reading complex texts
  • Has a clear design with a central goal and high standards
  • Calls for proficiency, complexity, and independence
  • Supports cross-curricular literacy teaching
  • Emphasizes every student needs to be given access to this work
  • Puts every state on the same measuring stick
The authors also emphasize, “We can learn what they value by what is repeated throughout the standards.”  Those repetitions include:
  • Close, attentive, and critical reading
  • Reasoning and use of evidence
  • Comprehending, evaluating, synthesizing
  • Understanding precisely
  • Citing specific evidence
  • Evaluating other points of view critically
  • Reading independently and closely
  • Demonstrating understanding of the text, referring explicitly to the text
  • Referring to details and examples in the text
  • Determining…describing…explaining…comparing and contrasting…analyzing

Those of us involved in literacy can see the depth to which the standards push our students.  We have always tried to get our students to think deeper on issues of importance.  The ELA standards provide an outline of spiraling skills from K-12 that encourage our students to be critical readers who examine text closely to analyze the validity in fact, power of word choice, and intended purpose of text.  In this information age, we are bombarded with information at the touch of our fingers.  It is now more important than ever to be able to critically examine the text that comes our way to determine the real message behind the words. It is at this time in our history with access to extensive amounts of text, we need standards that encourage us to unpack the meaning of words, make inferences that are supported by valid sources, and analyze meaning behind the words – in other words, read critically to create an understanding of our world and our experiences.

Are the standards perfect?  No.  But they are one step in a positive direction towards reading progress for our students.  My advice to those who oppose the Iowa Core, please study the issue.  Explore both sides via videos and assorted articles.  Examine closely the Core standards. Read text that both supports and opposes the Core.  That is what I am doing, and I have yet to be convinced that the implementation of common standards is harmful to our students.  Within my classroom, I can see how students are unpacking meaning, supporting inferences with reliable text, and examining word choice and its effect on the reader.  It’s a great time to be in the teaching field as we move students forward to be critical readers in this information age.

“Words are things, a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, producing that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”             – George Gordon Byron


Calkins, Lucy, Mary Ehrenworth, et al. Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2012. Print.