Standards Letter to the Editor

Critical Thinking and the Common Core

April 15, 2014 2 min read

In a March 25, 2014, Commentary, writer and former teacher David Ruenzel asserts that the Common Core State Standards’ emphasis on a “thinking curriculum” will require teachers as well as students to engage in critical thinking. This represents a significant change for teachers, he writes, adding that “the public has often perceived teachers—and the education schools that have prepared them—not as thinkers, but as taskmasters who force-feed ‘content’ to students who have to be kept in line.”

Although a majority of commenters agreed with Mr. Ruenzel’s case for the importance of critical thinking by teachers, many complained that schools fail to provide the time or resources for educators to develop these resources. Several commenters also questioned whether the common-core standards are conducive to encouraging critical thinking.

Read the full Commentary and reader responses here.

While it is true that teachers must be thinkers, schools do not typically provide time for teachers to think about their thinking or share their thinking with their colleagues. For some reason, we think that time allotted for reflection is not valuable. Yet how can teachers reflect “on, in, and about” their actions, if not given the time to do so?
—Ellen Eisenberg

It would be great if the common core did require teacher autonomy. The sad truth is that it does not. And unless educators move beyond hoping it might be so, and get organized, we will be reduced to the role of electricians, helping all sorts of devices and learning systems as they “plug in” to our classrooms.
—Anthony Cody

Thank you for pointing out that CCSS require a lot more critical thinking on the part of teachers. This means that better staff development needs to be in place so that teachers can practice what they are asking students to do.

[R]elying on teacher creativity or even teacher teaming can be a subversive force; experienced teachers don’t need textbooks, scripts, or tests to teach well. However, the accountability movement relies on a business model to maintain control; teachers aren’t even middle management in this model.
—Dr. Conde

Since I’ve become a teacher nine years ago, I’ve found that the worst place to have a cerebral conversation about education is inside an actual school. No one wants to talk about it. We all just have to rush through everything.

Unfortunately teachers are expected to somehow slip into automatic with respect to teaching critical or higher-order thinking when typically there is little or no direct training either at preservice or inservice level to ensure at least some understanding of the processes.
—Dr. Trevor J. Tebbs

A version of this article appeared in the April 16, 2014 edition of Education Week as Critical Thinking And the Common Core


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