2013-10-03 / Schools

10 things every parent should know about Common Core

By Rick Hazeltine

THE NEXT TEXTBOOK—The days of studentsfilling out bubbles on multiple-choice tests are coming to end. Under the new Common Core Standards, students will be expected to do more exercises on tablets like iPads and all assessments tests will be done on computers. THE NEXT TEXTBOOK—The days of studentsfilling out bubbles on multiple-choice tests are coming to end. Under the new Common Core Standards, students will be expected to do more exercises on tablets like iPads and all assessments tests will be done on computers. If you have only a vague idea of what Common Core State Standards is, you have plenty of company. According to a recent Gallup Poll, nearly two-thirds of the nation hasn’t heard of CCSS, let alone knows how it works.

But if you have school-age children, CCSS has quickly joined the list of familiar acronyms that include AP, GPA and SAT.

CCSS was developed beginning in 2009 when 48 states and the District of Columbia agreed to collaborate on creating new teaching standards to better prepare children for college and the workplace.

The CCSS was written and published in 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. They received input from teachers, researchers, higherlearning experts and business leaders, among others.

The final CCSS was adopted in June 2010, and the California State Board of Education signed on that August. So far, 45 states, Washington, D.C. and most U.S. territories have adopted the CCSS.

Now that you have a brief history lesson, it’s time to find out what parents really want to know: How does this affect my school, my classroom and, most importantly, my child?

Here’s a look at 10 things parents should know as the California public school system embarks on a brave new world of teaching and learning.

1. What exactly is Common Core State Standards?

The CCSS is a national standard of what students should know at each grade level and when they graduate high school. In the past, every state had its own standards, meaning a high math score in one state could be a middling score in another that had more rigorous requirements. This made it diffi cult for colleges and employers to compare candidates. One of the goals of CCSS is to create standards that are the same across the nation. CCSS is also tied to international standards so Americans can better compete in the global marketplace.

2. When will CCSS show up in my child’s classroom?

It probably already has. This school year, it’s up to individual districts as to how much of the CCSS is incorporated into the classroom. But all districts in California are required to have CCSS fully implemented by the 2014-15 school year. Some districts in Ventura County are already including the Language Arts section in lower grades.

3. How will CCSS affect test scores?

It’s not going to be pretty. New York and Kentucky got a jump on the rest of the nation and implemented tests that were aligned to the CCSS in 2013. Both states saw the number of students rating proficient or better in math and language arts drop significantly. Only 30 percent of students reached proficiency in New York. In Kentucky, the number of proficient or better dropped by a third. It’s not likely to be much different in California, but school officials say the drop is to be expected considering the significant changes to curriculum, and that it’s impossible to compare results of the new testing with previous Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) testing.

4. How will my child’s test scores under CCSS impact his or her ability to take honors or Advanced Placement classes in high school?

Some high schools use API scores to determine eligibility for honors and AP classes. Now that API will not be around, schools that have minimum requirements will rely more on grade-point average and teacher recommendations until the new testing is up and running and students have a chance to adapt to the changes. However, the same shift to critical thinking and problem solving will also be used in all national tests, such as AP, Scholastic Aptitude Test, etc.

5. What subject areas are included in CCSS and how will they be different than past curriculum?

CCSS is now limited to mathematics and language arts—science is expected to be included soon— and the changes in curriculum are significant.

In language arts, the emphasis will shift to far more informational text than literary. This is because once students reach college or the workplace, one reads predominately informational-based material. Previously, as little as 15 percent of elementary reading in California schools was informational. Now, reading will be evenly split between literary and informational in elementary school, will be 60 percent informational in middle school and 75 percent informational in high school.

In math, the focus will shift from memorization of concepts to using them to develop criticalthinking and problem-solving skills, which is how they are used in college and the workplace.

For examples of the types of problems that will be included in CCSS tests and the classroom, visit http://sbac.portal.airast.org/ Practice-Test/. Click on the green square icon at the bottom of the page. The sign-in is already filled for “guest,” so just click the Sign In button on the lower right. Now, select the grade level from the drop-down menu at lower left, then click the Yes button to get to Your Tests. You can now sample the questions.

6. Will CCSS mean that the country will have a national curriculum with teachers teaching the same programs across the nation?

No. CCSS dictates nationally what students should know and when, but it does not control how states teach the curriculum.

7. Why are we drastically changing what and how children learn, and why now?

CCSS proponents believe students are not coming out of high school adequately prepared for the rigors of college and the workplace. CCSS is designed to align the skills needed for college and the workplace with elementary and high school public education. It is also designed to align American education with that of top-ranking countries in the world. The United States did not fare well in a recent ranking of the top 40 educational systems among developed countries, ranking 17th. Finland and South Korea were at the top.

8. Are there differences between the national CCSS and the standards California will use?

Yes. While the state department of education adopted the national standards, it also added to them. Formal presentations and penmanship have been added to grades’ 2 through 4 language arts curriculum. Probability, statistics and algebraic thinking are included in grades’ 2 through 5 math.

9. How has the state prepared for the implementation of CCSS?

California has budgeted $1.25 billion to help schools get CCSS in place.

Most of the money will go toward teacher preparation and technology. CCSS testing is done on computers or other electronic devices, such as iPads. There will be no more multiple-choice, bubble test answer sheets.

10. What grades will be tested under CCSS?

STAR testing started in second grade, but CCSS won’t start until the third grade.

Students will receive CCSS testing from third through eighth grade and in one year of high school, most likely 11th grade.

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