Information 101 – Common Core State Standards and the Race to the Top

Information 101 – Common Core State Standards and the Race to the Top

After taking more than a year to develop and build upon previously established college and career readiness standards, the Common Core State Standards have now been released.

You should know this…

• The standards were developed by the Council of Chief Public School Officers and the National Governors Association—along with input from many teachers, parents, school administrators, civil rights and business leaders—and are intended to replace the various uncoordinated standards currently set by states.

• Only Texas and Alaska did not participate.

• Standards address English Language Arts (ELA), History/Social Studies Literacy, Science and Technology, and Mathematics, K-12.

• All are “1) research and evidence-based; 2) aligned with college and work expectations; 3) rigorous; and 4) internationally benchmarked.”

• States are allowed to add up to 15% of their own standards to fill any gaps.

If adopted nationwide, as we hope, every state – therefore every county – would essentially follow the same curriculum guidelines, thereby allowing a child to transition smoothly from, say, an Oklahoma City school to one in Philadelphia without losing ground or repeating much material.

Meanwhile, state applications are being reviewed by the US Department of Education for the second round of the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant competition. In the first round, Pennsylvania came in seventh; only Tennessee and Delaware won this time. This time, 35 states and the District of Columbia are trying again.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan initially made the adoption of national standards a requirement for RTTT implementation, but organizations such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development were wary of such a mandate. As a result, adoption now earns the state extra points when applying.

The competition in this second round suggests that these 36 candidates are likely to adopt the Standards.

And it behooves all of us to read all the standards that represent “what students should understand and be able to do by the end of each grade.”

You’ll find, for example, that instead of a list of required reading, the English Language Standards include an appendix with suggestions for appropriate texts for each grade level. Exception: high school students must study the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and one Shakespeare play.

Meanwhile, you’ll also find that third graders will be able to describe the characters of a story, sixth graders can compare and contrast different texts, while 11th graders will demonstrate knowledge of 18th, 19th, and 20th seminal works of American literature for a century.

And when it comes to writing, the standards indicate, for example, that a 5th grader will successfully write well-supported opinions, while an 8th grader will be able to write arguments based on appropriate evidence, and seniors will be able to communicate complex ideas, concepts and information clearly.

History/Social Studies and Science/Technical Literacy Standards for Grades 6-12 include:

• Identifying aspects of a text that reveal the author’s point of view or view and purpose.

• Analyzing the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure or discussing an experiment in a text, defining the question the author wants to answer.

Meanwhile, the math standards include, for example, the expectation that first graders can solve word problems that require the addition of three whole numbers that add up to 20 or less, while 5th graders can handle fractions , unlike denominators, 8th graders can use rational approximations of irrational numbers, and high school students can apply the remainder theorem.

Of course, adoption would force states to change their standardized tests and curricula to align with the standards. Is it worth it?

Founder and Chairman of the Core Knowledge Foundation and Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities at the University of Virginia, ED Hirsch, Jr. says: “This is a welcome recognition that only a grade-by-grade cumulative curriculum focused on coherent content can produce the high level of literacy the nation needs. In short, the Common Core Standards represent a fundamental and long overdue rethinking of the dominant process approach to literacy instruction in the United States.”

Meanwhile, Walt Gardner, a former teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District and UCLA graduate school faculty member, is now an education contributor to major newspapers and magazines. He writes that “National Standards are not a panacea for the ills afflicting public education, but they are a step in the right direction. There are always risks involved in an undertaking of this magnitude. Overall, though, I think they’re worth taking.”

Bottom line: these standardsdeveloped by experts, will provide teachers with flexible guidelines they can follow as they develop lesson plans that will meet the needs and interests of their students.

And that’s a plus, whichever way you look at it.

#Information #Common #Core #State #Standards #Race #Top

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