Thursday, August 25, 2011

Learning about the new Common Core Standards

With my oldest child starting school this year and my son starting next year, I am very interested in the new Common Core Standards that are beginning this year.  I'm very optimistic about these changes and hopeful that we will see great results.  This article was in my local paper this week and it is very informative to anyone who is wanting to know more about the new way that things will be taught in our schools. 

BETWEEN THE LINES: A Start On A Common Core

Posted: August 17, 2011 at 3:37 a.m.

 — Something new awaited Arkansas school students this week as they returned to classes.
The state is changing the standards by which they will be taught and tested.
Actually, only students in kindergarten, first and second grades are supposed to be introduced this academic year to the new Common Core state standards, a curriculum developed nationally and voluntarily adopted in Arkansas, as it has been in most states.
Eventually, all kindergarten through 12th grade students in every participating state will be taught the new curriculum, which has educators excited but which will undoubtedly confuse many of the rest of us as it becomes the standard on which students are tested.
The plan is for kindergarten through second grade to be on the curriculum this year. Students in third through eighth grade will transition to the new curriculum next school year. High school students will move to Common Core in the 2013-14 school year.
At least one Arkansas school district plans to implement Common Core at all grade levels in this school year, which will present some added challenges there; but, sooner or later, students in all grades in all schools will be following the changed curriculum.
By 2014-15, all public school students will be tested against the Common Core standards.
The concept is still so new that the tests are still being developed.
Once in place, the new electronic testing will replace the benchmarkand end-of-course exams students have taken by paper and pencil.
Switching to electronic testing is just part of adapting standards to what today’s students need, according to Dr. Tom Kimbrell, commissioner of education.
He’s been out in the state meeting with teachers, editors and reporters and others to explain Common Core. He counts himself among those excited by the changes the Common Core will bring to education.
The most obvious is that the new standards will be taught not just in Arkansas but in all these other states with the expectation that a child who begins school in some distant state could transfer into any Arkansas school, knowing that the course work is essentially the same in all. That transferring student shouldn’t be ahead of or behind his or her classmates in a given grade level.
Kimbrell describes these new content standards - which are limited to English language arts and mathematics - as much more rigorous than what have been in place. The primary difference is that, while students will be expected to learn fewer concepts, they will learn therequired material more deeply and, hopefully, more permanently.
Students will be introduced to some concepts, like fractions, in an earlier grade than they have been previously. They’ll also be writing earlier and more. And what they learn will be reinforced as they advance.
The goal, Kimbrell said, is both transferability for students and accountability for the public schools. They will all be engaged in what he called a “progression of learning” that readies students for college and career, including jobs that may not now exist.
For more detail, the Department of Education has plenty of information online about the new standards at, including comparisons with the “curriculum frameworks” that have been required. You can get a sense there of how these core concepts will be integrated with subjects such as history and science, too.
Just think of the Common Core standards as what your child is expected to learn in a given school year in order to make at least the same progress other students do in Arkansas and elsewhere.
It’s all about better preparing students for life, focusing more deeply on essential math and literacy skills.
Keep in mind, however, change is never easy. There are bound to be some difficult days in the transition. Nevertheless, Common Core certainly seems like change for the good.
Opinion, Pages 5 on 08/17/2011

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