ICS and Common Core

A great deal has been written and reported about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and in spite of the amount of information generated, there is still a great deal of confusion about the CCSS. The Common Core website (http://www.corestandards.org/) lays out the case for the standards and is a good place to start for parents who want to educate themselves about Common Core. Common Core has created standards only for mathematics and English language arts/literacy, only with the literacy standards supporting learning in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.

school desksAn example of reading standards for second grade includes the following pedagogically rich goals:

Key Ideas and Details:
Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

Craft and Structure:
Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.
Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.
books_educationCompare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.

As the website states, “while the standards set grade-specific goals, they do not define how the standards should be taught or which materials should be used to support students.” This has resulted in a cottage industry of curricular materials that support Common Core. Many of these resources are excellent and promote depth of understanding and critical thinking. Most Common Core assignments and assessments require students to explain how they reached their answers, which is excellent methodology. The CCSS is committed to academic rigor and the promotion of higher order thinking skills.

So, why doesn’t ICS use Common Core State Standards?
There are a number of practical reasons that Immanuel Christian School has not adopted Common Core. First of all, the state of Virginia has not adopted CCSS, opting instead to continue with the Virginia State Standards of Learning (SOL). As a private school, we are not required to use the Virginia SOL or administer SOL testing. However, teachers at all grade levels at ICS are aware of the grade level state standards and incorporate those standards wherever appropriate within our curriculum/scope and sequence. The ICS administration periodicalstanding out1ly reviews our curriculum in relation to the Virginia SOL to ensure we are on par with local public schools. Each review has revealed that ICS consistently meets or exceeds the state requirements.

Another compelling reason to view CCSS with wariness is the number of states which have chosen not to adopt Common Core or are in the process of rescinding their Common Core status in favor of locally-generated standards. Also, Common Core is test-driven, and ICS places far more value on the daily interaction between teacher and student and the regular formative assessments that reveal far more about student learning than periodic standardized testing.

The most important reason that ICS does not adopt Common Core is that the standards and resources are basically devoid of Christian content. ICS is founded on and dedicated to the premise that all truth is God’s truth, and all intellectual endeavors that do not begin with the acknowledgment of God as the Creator and Sustainer of His creation will not foster true knowledge.

Stephen Danish, Head of School, writes, “The purpose of education is to bring us into a fuller knowledge of God, His word and His world, and to increase our understanding of that life He has designed for us. In order to accomplish this, the pursuit of knowledge must always begin with reverence for the author and revealer of truth. Whether it is truth about social relationships, the purpose of life, or the multiplication of numbers, all truth is God’s truth and exists because God has ordained it so. To pursue education without regard for God and His revelation is to short-circuit the process of learning that was designed by God to bring blessing to mankind. Education is not merely the acquisition of knowledge and skill, but rather a foundation for wisdom and understanding. Education is not merely a means for making a living, but rather a means for learning how to live.”

Immanuel Christian School is focused on partnering with families to inspire our students for purposeful lives of learning, godliness and service. Educational practices and products will come and go, but ICS remains focused on our calling to grow young men and women in their intellect and in their Christian faith, and to prepare them to serve God in world that desperately needs the truth.

CrabtreeThis post was written by Marty Crabtree, Immanuel Christian School’s Enrichment Resources Coordinator.