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Curiously Common: A Blog Series Keeping You Curious about the Common Nature of Education

By Elijah Mercer, CEI Intern

CEI recognizes that school principals, other educational leaders, and teachers are bombarded with input regarding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). While some information is useful, in other cases the information has contributed to a growing resistance to effective implementation.

Since 2010, 46 states have adopted the Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCSS). Of America’s 50 states, only Alaska, Texas, Nebraska and Virginia did not adopt them and Minnesota adopted only the English Language Arts Standards. However, this past year has seen additional changes: Oklahoma, South Carolina and Indiana have withdrawn their adoptions. (A full color map of CCSS adoption for each state is available on Academic Benchmark’s website.)

Despite growing tension surrounding debate of Common Core Standards, many teachers are finding innovative ways to implement the standards and, by virtue, increase student achievement and engagement. Similarly, many organizations continue to provide supports and strategies to increase the effectiveness of the CCSS.

Each week, this blog series will recognize states that have adopted the Common Core Standards and highlight some of the rigorous, yet innovative instructional practices teachers have implemented. The series will also focus on the policy issues and decisions affecting Common Core implementation in those states as well. For transparency purposes, the series will also examine the current educational and curriculum practices from the states that initially chose to adopt Common Core Standards then withdrew, as well as those that never or partially adopted the standards as well.

The overall goal of this blog series is to highlight teachers’ instructional practices in the wake of Common Core implementation. This information is intended to strengthen instructional practices; we encourage principals and other administrators to share the information with teachers in their schools and districts.


The Alabama State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010. They combined the new set of standards with their own standards known as the Alabama College and Career and College Ready Standards. Alabama fully implemented standards for math in 2012, and English earlier this year.

Nevertheless, this adoption has not come without a bit of turmoil. Alabama did not adopt the Common Core assessments. They are instead pushing for an assessment more aligned to the ACT.

Policymakers have been putting heat on this front too. According to a recent Associated Press and Fox News Article, Senator Scott Beason, Republican of Gardendale, filed a bill late February that would repeal the standards until January 1, 2017.

“Common Core is an unproven, untested education experiment. If Common Core turns out to be the great educational panacea, then in 2017 the state school board can adopt it. I’m convinced by that time Common Core will be falling apart all over the country,” Beason said.

However, Alabama School Superintendent Tommy Bice disagreed with Beason’s efforts and urged against it, noting that Beason’s argument has little to do with academics and is more about politics (Alabama, 2014). Sandy Howell, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, agreed. Most notably, Alabama actually altered its state standards in a 5-2 vote back in early January 2014, the second time the state has slowly withdrawn from the Common Core (Highberger, 2012).

Yet, how are teachers fairing amidst the cacophony? Some teachers are still persisting in educating students and aligning their instructional practices with Common Core Curriculum Standards.

Learning Media Innovations. PBS recently recognized Alabama 2012 Teacher of the Year Mark Coleman as a 2014 LearningMedia Digital Innovator. Coleman teaches Social Studies at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama. Even with the new addition of the Common Core Standards, Coleman has still not used paper in his classroom for over 10 years. Instead, he uses online learning and social media to really engage student interests while still simultaneously meeting Common Core Standards. Thus, the technology becomes the traditional textbook learning. Coleman won a competitive international teaching grant after submitting a two minute video showcasing how his students used a free audio book of George Orwell’s 1984 to mimic government manipulation depicted in the novel. Students edited audio tidbits from the audiobook on a surveillance technology system, and then created videos about modern technology by manipulating Orwell’s 1984 audio. Coleman wanted his students to see how the government manipulated people in the 1984, and how it translates to real-world government manipulation still occurring in present-day. Multiple listening, learning, and collaborative working standards according to the Common Core were met with Coleman’s instructional practices. Coleman is currently working on his PhD in Educational Technology at the University of Alabama (Highberger, 2014).

Coleman’s case is significant for two reasons: It details how high level content can still meet Common Core Standards and it also highlights the use of innovation in the classroom. While Coleman teaches at a magnet high school, the struggle to implement standards is not the same for all teachers depending on a variety of factors.

In the next blog update, we’ll examine the opposite end of the spectrum: urban education standards. The post will delve into and discuss how teachers in another state in schools in inner city America are still making progress alongside the implementation of Common Core.


Alabama bill would repeal Common Core curriculum standards. (2014, February 22). Retrieved 2014, from

Belanger, E. (2014, January 14). State education board alters Common Core standards in response to criticism. Retrieved, 2014 from

Highberger, C. (2012, June 15). Fund for teachers grants fuels passion-based learning. Retrieved, 2014 from


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