By David S. Martin, Ph.D., 5-2-13
We read increasing numbers of messages these days about second thoughts that various entities are having in regard to the Common Core Curriculum Standards. On the one hand, this statement of concerns is definitely troubling because for the real first time, the Common Core (for all of its shortcomings) is a bona fide attempt to coordinate American public education—an historic attempt; the resistance is partly due to short-sighted parochialism on the part of some states, wanting to “maintain” their own curriculum.
On the other hand, one deserved and serious concern by a number of professionals in the field of cognitive education is the Common Core’s lack of a coordinated THREAD of cognitive strategies. Underpinning all subject matter of the curriculum is a framework of cognitive strategies which, if taught EXPLICITLY, enhance student achievement in all areas—as shown by empirical studies. Instead, the Common Core embeds some cognitive strategies (e.g., hypothesizing) only within the context of particular subject matters.
A highly valuable program of explicitly and consciously concentrating on these cognitive skills, however, is available, but as yet still not widely used in this country. The program, entitled “Instrumental Enrichment" (the brainchild of Israeli psychologist Reuven Feuerstein), specifically enables learners to acquire such important strategies as organizing, analyzing, synthesizing, categorizing, comparing, using logic, problem-solving (and much more), and has been used with academic success in 70 countries in 18 languages, as shown by more than 1,000 research studies. Such a critically important thread must be incorporated into the Common Core and can be done by school districts who are serious about addressing their achievement gaps; more of the same past practices without cognitive education will fail to yield the results we need, in spite of the excellent efforts at subject-matter coordination in the Common Core.
Anyone interested in finding more details on this program and learning about the professional development which is fundamental to it, could contact the North American Feuerstein Alliance at www.thinkingconnections.org – a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Feuerstein’s seminal work. I would also be happy to respond to questions individually through my email below.
--David S. Martin, Past President, North American Feuerstein Alliance (Professor Emeritus, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC) firstname.lastname@example.org