ASCD SmartBrief Special Report: Common Core State Standards (Part II)
Now that the Common Core State Standards in English and math have been adopted by most states, how will teaching and learning change?
This two-part ASCD SmartBrief Special Report on the Common Core State Standards offers educators a guide to the latest information.
Part II of this special report looks at how states and districts are preparing for the changes and how student assessments will be revamped. Part I of the report, published on Tuesday, looked at the standards in detail and how instruction will change.
We hope you find our special report on the Common Core State 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.
Few of the education reforms expected in response to the adoption of new common national education standards will be fully implemented before 2013, according to a new survey of states that have signed on to the initiative. Most states say their first step will be to train teachers how to teach the new standards. Changes in curriculum, assessment and other areas will take longer. Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, which conducted the survey, said that "it's going to be very complicated to make these standards mean anything."
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Fifteen school districts nationwide are testing the common core curriculum that has been adopted by 48 states nationwide. In one of those districts, Hillsborough County, Fla., educators say the national standards are the most important issue in education. The new standards, they say, will fundamentally change teaching, learning and assessments.
Educators at 18 New York schools are involved in a pilot program to develop ways to accomplish two missions of the new standards: improving student literacy and helping students read more difficult texts. Teachers are reviewing texts and assigning a level of complexity. During one review, teachers debated "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Some teachers said that while the book's sentence structures are easy to read, the topics discussed in the book may be too complicated for high-school students.
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Officials in 24 states are working to develop standardized tests that are aligned with the common core standards. The current plan is for such assessments to be administered quarterly to provide feedback on students' progress. The assessments will measure whether students are on track, and high-school students will be tested on their college-readiness.
Limits on schools' technology and budgets are concerns to those developing new computer-based national assessments. The tests, to be rolled out in 2014, must be developed quickly with assurance that they will serve their intended accountability for teachers and schools. Test developers also say they are working under the assumption that emerging technology will help make computer-based tests affordable and that technology will continue to be integrated into the nation's classrooms, making the new tests feasible.
North Carolina lawmakers are making changes to the way students are assessed as part of its transition to adopting the common core. Most recently, as part of its transition to nationally recognized tests to evaluate students' performance, the state eliminated several end-of-year tests.
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A bipartisan group is pushing for a common national curriculum. The group, which includes union heads, business leaders and educators, is calling for guidelines that specify what students should learn beyond the common standards in math and English that have been adopted by most states. A statement from the group said a national curriculum would make up between 50% to 60% of a school's class time and would not control daily lessons or textbook selections.
Two education foundations said Wednesday they are working to develop 24 new online reading and math courses that will be aligned with the common core standards. The courses will be developed by the Pearson Foundation -- associated with the major textbook company -- and will include video, social media, games and other digital materials. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $3 million for four of the courses to be offered free to schools. The initiative appears to be the most ambitious effort so far to align textbooks -- online or otherwise -- with the new standards and may position Pearson as a leader in the market.
The National Science Teachers Association is developing new national standards that, the group says, go hand-in-hand with the common core standards. This comes as more schools nationwide are beginning to focus on science, technology, engineering and math instruction, and President Barack Obama has made STEM learning a national priority.