• Readin’, Ritin’ and ‘Rithmetic … and Thinking

    By Marge Ann Jameson

    Classroom_View web

    Common Core State Standards have come to Pacific Grove Unified School District. Teachers and administrators are embracing CCSS and are looking forward to its implementation in 2014, and the anticipated results, in a big way as they attend a set of workshops scheduled before implementation of the standards in 2014-15.

    Common Core is a set of expectations that set out what students should be learning in language arts and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through the senior year in high school. It was developed by a group of educators and experts (not by the federal government) who studied standards from the world’s highest-performing countries. Its aim is to ensure that all American students are prepared for college or the workplace after graduation. Common Core provides a single set of standards that will offer students across the nation equal access to the same academic content, regardless of their family income level or ethnicity.

    Common Core teaches critical thinking and problem-solving and invites students to become active learners rather than passive students. They will no longer be rote learners, but will be required to reason out the answers on exams rather than memorizing a “correct” answer.

    “While memorization of math facts is still important, more emphasis will be placed on true comprehension,” according to the Aspen Institute. “To demonstrate their depth of understanding, students will be required to explain in writing how they solved a math problem.”

    “Show your work” in hyperdrive.

    CCSS does not offer set standards for the balance of the spectrum of education, such as history, social studies, science and technical subjects, but the Common Core Standard will be applied to teach those subjects.

    Nor is there a clear-cut answer to questions about students who learn differently from the mainstream, whether learning disabled or autistic, or even English learners. Guidelines are offered, but it will be up to individual schools to decide how to implement the standards for their own student population, a factor taken into consideration in Pacific Grove where there is a high percentage of English learners. Voluntary primary language assessments and special assessments for students with severe disabilities will remain in place for California as well.

    CCSS offers an advantage to mobile populations like military dependents in its consistency across state lines. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia plus three territories have adopted the standards. Indiana, however, is having second thoughts and Minnesota has only adopted the English standard but not the math ones. Other states which have declined as of this date are Texas, Alaska, Virginia and Nebraska.

    It is not clear, either, how student progress will be measured. STAR testing, that rite of passage dreaded by millions of students, will soon go the way of the dinosaur – at least in mathematics and English language arts. “It’s simply wrong to expect schools to prepare our students for the future while continuing o ask them to use tests that are products of the past,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who on Sept. 4 introduced amendments to pending legislation around testing. A set of new assessments called the Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP) will permanently replace STAR testing in the 2014-15 school year. As of now, the plans is for science tests to remain in place.

    Tests which will be administered, says Ani Silva, Curriculum and Special Projects Director for the Pacific Grove Unified School District, are expected to initially show lower scores until everyone – students, teachers, administrators and parents – is on the same page.

    There will be bumps on the road to complete implementation, according to PGUSD faculty and staff, but there is clearly a need, say experts, for today’s students to be able to develop critical thinking skills and learn to evaluate and apply the infinite amount of (and daily-changing) information available to them. The standards will offer relevance to the real world. Students, says the California Department of Education, need to have access to a world-class education regardless of other factors, such as their ZIP code.

    In 2012, a study called “College Remediation: a Review of the Causes and Consequences (M. Kurlaender and J. Howell) found that 25 percent of today’s high school graduates have to take remedial classes to enroll in college classes. It’s a trend that the California State University system has long decried, pointing out that the cost of remedial education is something they no longer wish to bear. It remains to be seen whether Common Core will be the answer, but local educators are hopeful.

     

    Photo credit: By Larsipsheger via Wikimedia Commons

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on September 15, 2013

    Topics: Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson, Schools

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