This year, more than ever, teachers are feeling the pressure of high-stakes testing. Teachers are expected to prepare their students using the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a new set of rigorous learning standards to guide their lessons for the year.

As a tenured teacher, I can understand both the opposition surrounding CCSS and also the benefits that come with the new standards. Teachers have a lot on their plates. We feel like there is not enough time in a day to cover what is expected. Regardless of personal opinions about the CCSS, it is our duty and responsibility as teachers to ensure that we are changing classroom practices to include the CCSS.

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Colored pencils on a teacher’s desk.

The CCSS were designed to prepare students for college and their career as well as to gain critical thinking and argumentative skills using real-world applications. For example, one aim is to increase student engagement and fluency in nonfiction texts, given that most careers (and colleges) require nonfiction and informational writing.

In my classroom last year, as a third-grade teacher, the first writing unit I taught was on informational and nonfiction writing. Students learned the different characteristics of nonfiction. They also became familiar with how to read and write informational text. I immediately saw my students invest in nonfictional texts like they never had before. Because I emphasized nonfiction more, my students were more comfortable and excited to read nonfiction texts, something that probably would not have happened without the CCSS.

The CCSS’s focus on argumentative writing similarly translates into real-world skills. Students need to become problem solvers who are able to voice their opinions effectively. Further, with CCSS, science and social studies more frequently highlight current events and integrate other core studies, like reading and math, within the lessons. In the past, education, science, and social studies were taught mostly independent of other subjects.

Overall, CCSS uses concrete connections to increase the knowledge and skill sets of our students. As teachers, we are trying to educate our students to become critical thinkers that are able to create connections. These standards give students the skills needed to take information, analyze it, and use that information to create innovative solutions.

We are teaching students that there is not one answer; rather, they have to connect the pieces to create answers that apply to everyday problems. Implementing these standards to the best of our ability is our duty as teachers. We may lament the increased emphasis on testing, but when it comes to the future of our students, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

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