Last weekend one our reporters produced a good story about a Newport Elementary School teacher implementing the state's new Common Core curriculum into her classroom. There has been much debate regarding this approach to teaching, which emphasizes conceptual understanding over old-school memorization. Having something of a preference for the "Three R" technique of our day, we were skeptical of this change at first, but we like what we're hearing about it now.
The idea is to guide pupils to understand what they're learning, and what the material means, rather than just teaching them to memorize facts and bubble them in on standardized tests. And for this reason we think the Common Core is generally for the common good.
We still favor a little of the old stuff focused on memorization ("In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue") and our understanding of the new educational approach is those techniques don't go away altogether, it's just not emphasized as much as critical thinking.
We like the idea of students who not only know the material but understand it. And the focus on important academic and life skills — writing, reading comprehension, giving and receiving constructive criticism, public speaking and collaborating to solve upper math problems — makes practical sense. We do, however, agree with concerns that some old-fashioned discipline based on memorizing formulas and the like should remain in math instruction, as the United States already lags behind much of the developed world in this "universal language."
We are also assured by the fact that Newport-Mesa Unified teachers are working within the standards to create curricula appropriate to our district and its mix of students.
"It's unique that all of this is done by teachers, and they're utilizing the resources they have," teacher Terri Clarke told the Daily Pilot. "As a teacher it feels great to be validated. It's invigorating and motivating to be respected and valued."
And when teachers feel validated, students learn. And that, at its core, is the common goal.