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How Common Core State Standards Affect Minority Students

How Common Core State Standards Affect Minority Students

With the advent of more pervasive standardized national and state benchmarks, minority and underprivileged students face unique challenges. The Common Core State Standards have very different implications depending upon whether your students were meeting previous standards or not. For under-served students of color who were not meeting previous, often less rigorous standards, the Common Core State Standards pose a particular challenge.

Are Minority Students at a Disadvantage?

In his article, “The Common Core State Standards Initiative: A Critical Response,” Eric (Rico) Gutstein, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois, criticizes the Common Core State Standards for neglecting issues of race, ethnicity, class and gender. He argues that federal education policies, regardless of the administration that promotes them, are harming students of color. In addition to needing better schools and better learning experiences, as well as better out of school experiences, some claim that disadvantaged students of color need a different set of standards and assessments. Whether they are going to be required to work with the same set of standards as their peers or not, investments must be made to improve the quality of education for underprivileged students of color.

Targeting specific programs toward underprivileged students is one way to close the achievement gap. However, one can’t assume that higher standards leave low-performing students behind. In fact, Joshua Goodman at Harvard University has found that higher standards actually improved the scores of eighth graders in low-performing states, particularly for low-performing students. These results demonstrate that common core learning standards can actually make up for pedagogy that would otherwise be poor.

Learning Standards for Diverse Students: Possible Solutions

The Council of the Great City Schools in Washington, D.C. has released a document entitled “Common Core State Standards and Diverse Students: Using Multi-Tiered Systems of Support,“ which describes how schools can provide the appropriate level of instruction and intervention to all of their students, taking into account different backgrounds, levels of achievement, and learning styles. The paper also provides concrete examples using a common core model lesson. Another possible solution is to pair the Common Core State Standards with social emotional learning programs, as described on the Hertz Furniture School Matters Blog. These programs have been shown to raise academic achievement in addition to other benefits.

Helping students of color excel using the new Common Core Learning Standards starts with teacher education programs. If educators are better equipped to implement the standards in particular populations, the whole education system will benefit. In “How will the Common Core State Standards Affect Black Colleges, Teachers and Students?” , Marybeth Gasman and Michael T. Nettles explain that “African-American children and their teachers face the largest challenges to achieve the standards.” An important step in helping them overcome these challenges could be bigger financial investment in teacher training programs at historically black colleges and universities, where a significant proportion of these teachers are being educated.

Common Core Standards: Closing the Achievement Gap

Working with the Common Core State Standards to help underprivileged and minority students achieve academic success is a challenge that today’s schools must rise to. With the aid of educational resources, teachers, principals and administrators can create curricula and programming that will help all students master the Common Core Standards. Closing the achievement gap is a matter of recognizing the unique needs of our diverse student population and ensuring that all students, no matter what their backgrounds are, can experience success both in and out of the classroom.

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