A Common Core for Christian schools?

In these past few months, something remarkable happened across the United States: many states adopted a set of national standards called the Common Core State Standards.  (Those states are shown in yellow in the graphic to the right.) The adoption of the standards was sped along by the fact that any states applying for Race to the Top monies were required to have previously adopted the standards.

It is also remarkable that there has been a lot of praise for the content of the standards. Experts have even stated that the standards are stronger and more helpful than the current standards of 80% of the states. The standards are currently completed in language arts and math, with other areas still in the works.

As a “curriculum person,” I am always excited to have greater clarity around what we view as important for students to know and do. Yet, this set of standards lacks the kind of perspective toward wisdom that we are seeking to achieve with our students in Christian schools. I am not arguing with the content of the standards, just their completeness, as they are not wholistic in their current form, nor do they recognize the source all truth.

Would it be beneficial to have an amended Common Core standards for Christian schools that include an articulation of the kind of student outcomes we are working toward with our students?


Filed under curriculum, discernment, distinctively Christian, image of God, resources, staff development, student assessments, student outcomes

37 responses to “A Common Core for Christian schools?

  1. Absolutely! In July of 2010 the Iowa Department of Education adopted the Common Core while in the midst of implementing the Iowa Core (a broader system of essential concepts and skills). To my understanding the Iowa Departement of Education is aligning the Iowa Core to the Common Core. All accredited nonpublic schools in Iowa are required to implement the Iowa Core. I too have concerns about the completeness of the Common Core and Iowa Core.

    A CSI Common Core would be a great resource to Christian schools as we continue to articulate the uniqueness of Christian education.

  2. Harriet Potoka

    I am currently working my way through the Common Core Standards, comparing them to the Illinois standards, and beginning the thought process of how to use them in our program. I would certainly benefit from the input and wisdom of other Christian educators in amending them for use in our school and other Christian schools.

  3. Pete Post

    Once again I am thankful for the challeging content expressed in Nurturing Faith that I can share with my pre-service teachers at Trinity Christian College. I am going to ask my juniors in SPED 315 (low incidence disabillities) to respond to this post. Most of these students will find themselves student-teaching next year and will be required to document the state standards being addressed by each of their teaching activities. But the challenge here seems to be – how can teachers assure that their students are learning what they SHOULD be at their given age level and understanding capabilities? I would agree that in Christian schools standards should also be applied to activities that encourage the growing of faith in our children. Since I am also a lifelong educator in special education I would like to ask my students to suggest a statement that could be applied as a standard for dealing with others that have disabilities or special needs.
    Professor Pete Post

  4. I agree with David that a CSI Common Core would be a good resource. Next steps?

  5. Dave Mulder

    I love the idea of a CSI Common Core! What a great way to delineate what students need to know, understand, and be able to do…while incorporating a biblical worldview. I’m in–when are we starting on this? :-)

  6. Our schools are stronger together, as we all know. A common core from CSI would really help us share our strengths.

  7. I am very interested. It would be good to hear how others are incorporating a strong biblical perspective into their core curriculum – a rigorous curriculum, taught well, from a biblical perspective. I look forward to continuing this conversation.

  8. I think this is a wonderful idea and would be willing to help with this venture. Please keep us posted.

  9. Al Kosters

    I fully concur with others who have posted comments. Schools, curriculum administrators, and teachers need this kind of support. Keep us posted.

  10. Becky Norgard

    Hello! I go to Trinity Christian College, and I am in Professor Pete Post’s class. I enjoyed reading your article, as it gave me more “insight knowledge” in the world of teaching. I tend to agree with all the other comments. It would most definitely be helpful to have a list of standards that Christian schools need to meet. I always find it helpful when I have a list of goals/ tasks I need to accomplish throughout my day and having some specific standards to help me build my lessons around would really help me in making sure my students are getting the outcomes we are looking for in the Christian school system. Professor Post also asked us to come up with a standard that could be applied to special needs students. I think that having a standard where all students with special needs, once done with high school, continue in their education. There would definitely need to be flexibility here because you will always have a wide range of disabilities, but the students can move onto to college if they are able, or get some sort of part time job, work on reading a book, or improving their speech at home. I guess I just think it would be good to have a standard where before the student were to graduate; teachers and parents, and the student would come up with ways that the special needs student could continue to grow and develop intellectually outside of high school.

    Thanks for your post!
    Becky N

    • Amy Johnstone

      I think that the the Common Core State Standards are a great idea because it provides a clear guide to understand what students are expected to learn. This will help or country thrive. I do believe that Christian school should devise an amendment for the Common Core State Standards because there are many important things that we want our children to know and do to grow in their faith. Adding an amendment reflecting the knowledge and skills to have a successful and fulfilling faith would be a great addition. Leaving a Christian School amendment out of the Common Core State Standards would leave an important gap in what many Christian believe to be important. I think many people would benefit from the input of other Christian. Along with a Christian School amendment, I believe one should be made for special education students. I think that we should work towards developing and blossoming our special education student’s faith and education. A program should be adopted for special education students to continue their education after school and through adulthood.

  11. Kristi Jendrzejak

    Yes! I think Christian schools should have their own set of standards. If national standards are being implemented in states throughout the nation, it seems only fair to create national standards in other educational areas. There is so much that a student can learn in faith, and having a set of standards designed specifically for that will definitely help Christian schools focus in on what their students need to learn from a Christian perspective. In terms of special needs children it’s very challenging to determine standards for them because they’re all so unique in their own way. However I feel that, they need goals to help them work independently as possible both in their school work and for everyday life. Some students with special needs may need assistance all their life but, at least there would be progress in trying to get them to be as independent as possible in a specific area of their life.

    -Kristi Jendrzejak (student from Professor Post’s class)

  12. Jim Cummings

    I believe that the Common Core State Standards are a great idea to establish in our school systems across America. These standards provide a clear guide to what students are expected to learn in our school systems. With these standards all of our students should be on the same playing field because all the students will be taught using the same standards. However, I do believe that Christian schools should have an amended core of standards. I feel this way because it is important for children that are enrolled in Christian schools to learn about God and grow in their faith. In public schools this is not a part of their education. Although, in Christian schools it is a major part of their education and a major part of their life. If they do not incorporate this in their schooling the students will be missing out on a major part of their development. Therefore, I feel that Christian schools should have an amended set of Common Core State Standards.

  13. Allison Stoub

    Hello! I am a student in Professor Pete Post’s class at Trinity Christian College. I am not sure that I agree with having a whole new set of standards for Christian schools. I believe that every school should have the same set of standards, however if you have been blessed and are able to work in a Christian school I believe that it is in the teachers on how they prepare the lessons and bring the Christian aspect into the lessons. The state standards might not know the “source of all the truth”, but the teachers that we have in our Christian schools should know the source of all the truth. I believe that this matter really lies on our educators. They should be able to use the completeness of the state standards when preparing their lesson and also use their own knowledge and others knowledge based on God. I believe that the true support lies in the educational committee of the Christian schools; the teachers, principle, and all other faculty members.

  14. Victoria Stoklosa

    Hello, I think that all schools whether private or public should have a common core standard. I think it is very important for the future of our country that all of our children have a good solid base knowledge. As these children go on to college they will all expected to know certain things and this is the only way to ensure that these children will have this general knowledge required for future learning. All schools can add more to this curriculum if they wish to do so based on their wants, needs and beliefs. But I don’t think that they need a seperate set of Core Standards because they are Christian schools. I think as long as they follow the basics its up to each school to add other standards as they see fit for their school. I know that each public school even though they follow a set of standards does not give the same education throughout the state. Each individual school is very similiar but does things a little different and adds extra programs as they see fit. I think the same should be done with all of the schools. Whether they are public or private they should all have a set of Common Core Standards.

  15. Ashley Miedema

    Hello. I am also a student in Professor Post’s class. As I read this post, I was thinking about how important education is in the lives of children. It surprised me that the new Common Core Standards are “more helpful than the current standards of 80% of the states.” Because of this, I am very glad that new standards are being implemented and that children are going to be challenged to learn the things that they need to know. I believe that some of the things that students need to know are based on Christian values. Because of this, I agree that Christian schools should have their own Common Core Standards. These would be very helpful in determining what to teach and in ensuring that children have received a proper Christian education when they leave the Christian schools.
    Professor Post also asked us to create a standard for students with special needs. I think that there should be a standard that states that these children should have the ability and knowledge to function in society with the least amount of help possible for that specific person. Once they have reached this standard, they would be able to decide how much they interacted with society, but at least they would have to skills that they needed to do so.

  16. Some in this post are advocating for wholesale adoption of the Common Core by Christian Schools. One look at the Common Core and you’ll soon realize that it is NOT benign knowledge based standards, but it too comes with a philosophical bend toward humanism. Rather than blindly adopting a humanist set of standards shouldn’t we use a similar knowledge base, but transform a Common Curriculum founded upon the truth of God’s Word? If we wholesale adopt humanistic philosophy without forethought how do we maintain our distinction? When prospective families ask about our curriculum and we provide them with the same humanistic Common Core documents that the public school down the street provides, what do you think their response will be? When our school’s vision and mission are diametrically opposed to the humanistic bend of the Common Core, yet we adopt it, what will our constituency think? Adopting the Common Core is not just about the “What” our students need to know, but also about the “Why” our students need to know it. It behooves all Christian Schools to articulate the truth of God’s word, not only in their classrooms, but also in their curriculum documentation.

    • K

      Well said! I am the only one in our school presenting the dangers of Common Core to our Christian school and so far have been looked at as kind a nut job. I wish people would take the time to really research and dig into what this really is. It is a danger to our children and our countrys future. Goes along with the saying “I am from the government and Im here to help!”

      • Dr. Rebecca Pennington

        I have spent hours studying and researching the Common Core ELA standards. While I agree that the political process that produced these was less than ideal, I would like to know what you find objectionable in the content of the standards, including the Appendixes and the exemplar texts. There is a move back toward meaning found in text and away from a more “reader-response” approach, which I have found some of the classical Christian schools to appreciate. What is your actual objection, those of you who are objecting?

  17. Dave Byma

    Hello. I am a student of Pete Post’s class. I don’t agree totally with having a whole new set of standards for Christian schools. I agree with having standards in schools, don’t get me wrong, but having a separate standards for Christian schools I think is a little silly. The teachers who are blessed to work in a Christian school did so because they are probably Christians so therefore they would want to implement faith and a Christian perspective into what they are already teaching to their students. You can’t always expect to have standards to fully weave the Christian aspect into the lesson. The state standards might not have this aspect in their standards but as teachers in a Christian school we can weave our beliefs into the state standards and teach it to our students. So having new standards for Christian schools because if you teach in a Christian school you should be weaving your beliefs through the lessons already so I find making new standards for something we should already to be doing a little tedious.

  18. Audrey Noonan

    I am a student in Professor Post’s class as well. I definately think it would be helpful to have ammended Common Core standards for Christian schools. It is important that students in Christian Schools are making the same sort of educational strides as their peers in public school. However, it is also important that students are making strides in their faith. While this is more difficult to document, it would be helpful to have religious education standards to ensure that students are recieving a firmly Biblical education. I agree with Ashley Miedema, who said that special education students “should have the ability and knowledge to function in society.” It is very important that these students feel as though they are making a valuable contribution to society. I would take this idea a step further and say that it is vital that all special needs students know how they fit in God’s society, and are given an equal place in Christian schools and houses of worship. Thank you!

  19. Sarah Auskalnis

    Hello, I am a student in Pete Post’s class. While completing my last year of college and preparing myself to become a teacher, a Christian teacher at that, I find myself dealing a lot with state standards and teaching content. I think that although having common core state standards lacks the christain perspective and the wisdom that christians are seeking within their schools there should not be a seperate commorn core standrards for Christian schools. I do think, however, that it is important that states nationwide should share the same common standards and content to make sure that all students are making yearly progress.

  20. Kristin Paarlberg

    I am a student in Professor Post’s class at Trinity Christian College. While I agree that Christian schools should have learning standards, I don’t quite understand why there would need to be different ones than the public school standards. I realize that there does need to be some biblical basis for the coursework in a Christian school, why not have the students learn most of the same things as the public schools are teaching? There could be additional objectives for the Christian schools to follow, but if there is already a set of standards for teaching, it should be used if possible. As for the standard for special needs students, it would seem like a good idea to have transition plans in place and to treat the student just like any other student, but with some modifications/adaptations so the student can learn the same material at a different pace.

  21. Kristen Faber

    I very much agree with the statement that Christian schools should have their own sets of standards. Standards are made available for teachers so that they can have a focus in their lesson plans. The standards are to help teachers create goals for their lesson. It gives them a direction and a path to create their lessons on. In the case of a Christian school, some of those lessons or goals might be focused on faith and growing in Christ. If that is the objective of one of the lessons, then I definitely think there should be standards to go along with that.
    Professor Post also asked us to create a standard that applied to special needs children. I think that there should be a standard that applies to the normal, everyday tasks that people need to know. These tasks should be things that help the students to function in society, becuase after school, that is where they will end up. They will be thrown into the real world and we need to prepare them as much as we can for that.

  22. Melanie Lawrence

    I am a student in Professor Pete Post’s Special Ed class. I do not think that Christian schools should have different standards because I think that all schools should have pretty much the same standards. I believe that if a student attends a Christian school, they should expect to get a Christian education. It is the teacher’s responsibility to incorporate faith into the different aspects of learning. The teacher should understand how important it is to incorporate faith, and they should do it on their own. I do not believe there needs to be different standards for that. I think that public schools and private schools should all have the same standards.

  23. Kayla Schoneveld

    I am a student in Professor Pete Post’s Special Education class. I do not think that Christian schools should have a separate standards from public schools, because students will then be assessed differently than students from a public school. If students attend a Christian school, they are ready to be taught from a Christian standpoint, which is partially responsible by the teachers. If a teacher decides to teach at a Christian school, they need to be ready to share Christ with their students, unlike at a public school. Students need to be assessed equally because as they move on in their education, they will be intermixed with students of other school backgrounds. If they are assessed differently, some will not succeed as well as others.

  24. carissa trotto

    I think that christian schools should have standards but I do not think that they should be totally separate then the state standards. They Christian standards should include everything that state standards have and just add the christian perspective to the standard. Every student no matter who they are or where they are being taught at should be expected to know the same material at the same age. Eventually the children from christian school will go on and might not attend a christian college or a christian high school. If the standards are not the same as the state all the kids in the classroom will be at different levels. The christian standards should resemble the state standards closely to keep all students at the same rate.

  25. Victoria Bruinsma

    I think that everyone should have the same set of standards, but I think that there are certain subjects that are taught in Christian schools that are not acknowledged in the public education curriculum. It would be nice if there were standards specifically geared toward these subjects. It really is the teachers’ and administrators’ responsibilities to teach towards a Christian curriculum. In accordance with Prof. Post’s request to make a standard geared towards special needs children, there is a Christian Special Ed. school called Elim about 3 minutes from campus. Elim does a great job of incorporating their Christian view into their everyday classrooms. Elim knows that all these children are special gifts from God and they deserve to be given a Christian education. I think one of the things I appreciate most about Elim is how they prepare their students for life after they get out. They are given a chance to internship in certain jobs or build other life skills. Elim gives their students a goal to work towards for after school. They have a very special in this world and in God’s kingdom and it is important for them to be reminded of this everyday.

  26. Jamie King

    Hi, my name is Jamie King, and I am in professor Pete Post’s class. I love the fact that many of the states have come together to put in place many scholarly goals for their students. I think setting up expectations and and standards in the classroom is crucial in pushing children to be the best they can be and to push themselves, as long as teachers are not solely focusing on the standards. When it comes to the Christian aspect of these standards, I do not think that there should be a uniform set of standards. Each school has their own set of beliefs and principles, so I do not think it would be beneficial to make a common core of beliefs. I think it would make the most sense for each school to put in place a set of standards based on their own personal beliefs. By doing this, the school is “individualizing” their standards to their beliefs. On to the main point of my reply, setting up a core of standards for children with special needs, I think this is a great idea. I personally think that children with special needs need to be pushed and challenged to grow and become better, just as everyone else is. This means that we cannot simply “disregard” these children after their schooling period is over. I think it is wrong for us as educators to work with these children and for us to watch them grow as people and them simply forget about them once they are finished with high school. So I think it would be an incredible thing for states to set up some sort of standard having to do with the children who are graduating high school. I think it would be terrific for a standard to include individuals with special needs to continue their schooling after high school. Give them an opportunity to live in dorms with their peers and see what it is like to be away from their parents. Here they could gain valuable life skills all while still being in school.

  27. Ashley Wierema

    Hi, my name is Ashley Wierema and I am a student in Professor Post’s class at Trinity Christian College. As college students learning to become future teachers we hear a lot about state standards and what content to use in our classrooms. I think that it is a great idea for the Common Goal State standards. I think that it unites schools and gives them a goals in order to push forward and a process that allows students to learn to the best of their abilities. One that that I do not agree with is having different standards for Christian Schools. As a fellow private school student I was able to see my teacher’s faith as well as having incorporated into the lessons without a certain standard. I think it would be great for Christian Schools to function without a different standard because it shows students that no matter what lesson plan that faith and biblical messages can be found in anything.
    For setting up different standards for students with special needs I think that this would be a great idea! I think that having different standards for students to succeed and when they need different accomodations and learning styles. One standard that I think would be great for students with special needs would be to see what strengths they have and to set something of an apprenticeship for a student and let them find a place in this world were they can do amazing things for themselves but also to society. My brother was in the special needs program and even though in high school they help them find jobs, I think that sometimes they don’t allow them to use all their God given abilities.

  28. Jamie King

    Hi, my name is Jamie King and I am a student of Professor Post. I love the fact that states are coming together to set up standards to help children achieve greatness in academics. I think standards and requirements help students push themselves to become better and to turn weaknesses into strengths. On the other hand I do not think that have a set of core standards for Christian schools is necessary. I think that it would be unfair to have a uniform set of standards for all the schools. Each school has their own set of beliefs and morals. I think it would make the most sense just to allow each school to set up their own individual standards regarding their own beliefs. Now when it comes to professor Post’s question, I think it would be amazing for states to come up with standards designed specifically for children with special needs. A great standards would be for these children to spend two years in higher education. I think it would be great for children with special needs to continue their education after high school. It is awful to think that we as teacher have a tendency to work with these children and watch them grow as students and people and as soon as they graduate, it is almost as if we make them fend for themselves. What a great experience it would be for these individuals to live in dorms with their peers for a couple of years. Allow them to experience life more independently. This opportunity would teach them numerous types of life skills all while they are continuing their education.

  29. Tim Van Soelen

    Let’s get started! We just completed a Christian school board symposium last night and discussed this very issue. I think we (using The Wisdom of Crowds idea of James Surowiecki) could crosswalk the Common Core standards with the tenets of Reformed, Christian education and create a tool that meets the needs of our learners and teachers. Wouldn’t having sets of essential questions for each unit be an incredible gift to our teachers? How much easier would assessment be if we had learning targets that were tied to the Common Core but seen through the “spectacles of faith”?

  30. So, what’s next? What action steps can we take?

  31. Rebecca pennington

    This was in October of 2010. Has CSI or anyone else taken any action steps? We at Covenant College are hosting an Educator’s Conference on the Common Core State Standards Initiative on February 28, 2013. We will hear from Dr. Ellen Black from Liberty University. Maybe that question will come up.

  32. Warning. It is the brain child of the Gates Foundation. Parents all over are refusing to let their kids take the standardized tests, and this was implemented illegally. Non-Christian teachings are also being reinforced in the curriculum.

  33. John Vanderhoek

    What about the work of Dr. Steve Vryhof in
    12 Affirmation 2.0? To my mind this booklet gives great insights and directions.

    • Hi John,

      Yes – I blogged about the Affirmations in 2011 and while helpful do not take matters to the subject/unit level with standards and benchmarks. As I noted in an article in Christian Education Journal the CCSS is helpful, but as Christian schools we need to “go beyond” the kinds of outcomes they describe in order to meet our missions. The beauty of the Affirmations is that they do a great job of suggesting an educational vision for Christian schools. I believe that the Flourishing outcomes that I have created are also student outcomes descriptors that fit well with the intent of Affirmations 2.0.

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