ASCD SmartBrief Special Report: Common Core State Standards (Part I)
For many years, academic standards in the U.S. have differed by state, district and sometimes even school. The varying standards have resulted in wide disparities in student knowledge.
The adoption of the Common Core State Standards by most states is an attempt to create guidelines that can be used by educators across the country to teach math and English, with the goal of improving student proficiency.
This two-part ASCD SmartBrief Special Report on the Common Core State Standards offers guidance to educators on what to expect as the standards are implemented.
Part I examines the standards and how instruction will change. Part II, to be published Thursday, looks at how schools are beginning to align their teaching with the common core and how testing will change.
We hope you find our special report on the common core standards helpful. If you don't receive ASCD SmartBrief daily, we urge you to sign up for our timely e-newsletter. ASCD SmartBrief delivers the stories making news in your profession directly to your inbox -- for free.
Determining how national education standards will influence classroom lessons is drawing opinions from all sides, with some debating how to define "curriculum." Some say a curriculum is a set of larger ideas that guide instruction, while others say it's the actual lesson plan. At issue is whether states and districts want their individual lessons dictated to them, with some saying they are concerned about a lack of local input in those decisions.
Help Students Meet Common Core Math Standards
The Common Core State Standards for Mathematics focus on developing fluency of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts in the early grades. MathFacts in a Flash™ helps teachers ensure that students learn their math facts with automaticity required for mastery. Learn more.
In New York, 100 schools already have begun adhering to the common core -- the curriculum standards expected to be in place in most states and the District of Columbia by 2014. Overall, the standards are believed to encourage deeper thought among students, and more emphasis on persuasion and analysis. However, questions remain concerning the implementation of the new standards, including how much oversight will be given to ensure they are followed.
In West Virginia, educators are working to align the state curricula in math and English with common core standards that will help students understand how they will use math in the real world and place more emphasis on nonfiction texts. "I can teach slope as rise over run, or I can place an economic element to it and make it relevant to a particular situation rather than just having that raw math so they're not wondering, 'Where is this used?' and 'Why do I need it?'" said state mathematics coordinator Lou Maynus.
Math teachers in a Rhode Island district have been charged with working to align the district's curricula with common core standards. Teachers have studied the national standards and determined how much time should be spent on teaching concepts, officials said. Teachers involved in the work say the standards provide more specific guidelines for what students should know, allowing for more depth in learning.
Carnegie Learning worked with Richmond County, Ga., educators to release a national middle-school math textbook that is aligned with the common core standards. Officials said the district's curriculum already is closely aligned with the national standards. The textbook is more student-friendly, incorporates hands-on learning and uses real-world examples to help students better understand math formulas, officials said.
STAR Enterprise™ assessments—STAR Reading™ and STAR Math™—from Renaissance
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STAR assessments are aligned to Common Core State Standards and linked to state
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A New Jersey school district plans to use a new math curriculum for its elementary schools that is partially based on successful teaching methods used in Singapore. The curriculum is aligned with common core standards adopted by the state. Officials say Singapore math is more problem-based and allows students to master tasks before moving on to new concepts.
Former Providence, R.I., school board member Julia Steiny writes in this column about the lasting benefits of fiction, but says she is concerned that new common-core standards are more focused on nonfiction. Fiction, she writes, provides both literary skills and character development. At a time when many students are reading below grade level, she writes that the common core should embrace challenging, classic works of fiction as an impetus for student learning.
The new common core standards acknowledge a needed emphasis on argument in classroom lessons -- a skill necessary for students to succeed in college and career, say ASCD author and consultant Mike Schmoker and English and education professor Gerald Graff. However, they are concerned the somewhat confusing standards could marginalize the use of argument in lessons.
New STAR Enterprise assessments provide more information in the fastest amount of time, so you can screen your entire class in a single period. New tools, new content, and new reports help you determine if your students are on a pathway to proficiency on the Common Core State Standards. To take a tour of those new reports, click here.
Common core education standards adopted by 43 states focus on what students learn, not how they learn it, says Jack Farrell, a retired teacher and current school board president in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Farrell writes that the new standards put the onus largely on students to learn, an improvement from how teaching is conducted now. "Current pedagogical practices, wherein teaching is talking and learning is listening, do not adequately prepare students for the rigor of college or career," he writes.
The American Federation of Teachers is questioning whether teaching, assessments and curricula all will be properly aligned under the common core. The union wants to ensure that common core standards -- which will be reflected on assessments -- are clearly demonstrated in classroom teaching. Union officials say they would like to see a focus on curriculum development as the standards move toward implementation.
Teachers in Utah will receive two professional-development days this year to prepare for the implementation of common core standards. Officials said the days, in which students will not attend school, were necessary because the state did not provide funds for additional professional-development days.