You may have heard the term from your child's teachers or seen it in their textbooks, but what, exactly, is this Common Core?

"It's common as in we all agree that kids, at a minimum, should know this," said Brad Neuenswander, interim Kansas Education Commissioner."And the core is your core content area."

Common Core standards go into full effect in Kansas and 42 other states this school year and they've become quite controversial. Eyewitness News sat down with Neuenswander to discuss what the Common Core standards are and how they ended up in Kansas classrooms.

At the most basic level, Common Core is a set of benchmarks saying what children should know and be able to do at each grade level in both Math and English.

"States have had academic standards for years," said Neuenswander.

In education the term standards refers to a set of goals for what a student should know at the end of each grade.

"For the last several years state standards have been very broad," he said. "It was just more of 'Can I do the problem? Memorize the facts?' And less on 'Do I really  understand it?'"

Colleges across the country were complaining high school graduates weren't ready for the next step, too many needed extra help called remediation and many of those ended up quitting.

"Bottom line, the United States is falling behind other countries," said Neuenswander.

And each state had its own set of standards.

"It was hard to tell, when you tried to compare Kansas' standards to other states, because there was no ruler to measure them by," he said.

Neuenswander says the idea behind the Common Core standards was to up the game, increase the difficulty of what students need to achieve at each level, to make them more competitive.  It started with the core subjects of Math and English.  Right now those are the only subjects Common Core has standards for.

"We have to get more kids prepared for credit bearing courses," he said.
Then, the plan was to make the standards the same for all states.  So far, 43 states, including Kansas, have agreed to use the Common Core standards.

"The process is different than states have ever done in the past," said Neuenswander.

The Common Core standards began to form at the same time Kansas was getting ready to update it's state standards, something Kansas does once every seven years.

"Our process of doing that is we bring in teachers, curriculum directors, college professors, principals from across the state," said Neuenswander. Then, those professionals discuss what the standards need to say and come up with drafts that are eventually approved by the State Board of Education.
Neuenswander says this time, it went one step further and the best ideas from each state were combined to form the final Common Core standards being put into place in classrooms now.

The final result, he said, was really to put into writing what Kansas teachers had already been doing in classrooms for years.  The only real change, according to Neuenswander, would be in how students are learning, not what they're learning.

"Probably less memorization and more hands on, more engaged, kids working more collaboratively with each other," he said.

But that's not what some parents are saying they've seen as Common Core standards have been incrementally put into place over the last couple years.  The grassroots group Kansans Against Common Core has formed to try to get Common Core pulled from the Kansas educational system.