By Karen Billing
Starting in the 2014-15 school year, all school districts K-12 will plunge into a whole new way of learning when the Common Core State Standards are implemented. The new educational methodology aims to provide students with the practical real world skills they will need for college and their careers, more coherent and focused standards, more depth in understanding and higher levels of rigor for all learners.
There will be a standards-based report card and the Common Core will come with a new assessment— there will be no more STAR tests.
To help parents wrap their heads around the upcoming changes, Del Mar Hills Academy Principal Carrie Gammel held an informational session on Jan. 10. More sessions are planned in coming months.
“The Common Core is not just content, it’s content and thinking skills and how the students interact with the information,” Gammel said.
Over the years, U.S. students have been shown to lag behind their international counterparts in education and the Common Core seeks to address that gap. Countries such as Finland, South Korea and Japan round out the best school systems in the international community and Common Core reflects a way to match their success with new methodology, Gammel said. Another driving force for Common Core was the workforce field noticing that U.S. students’ creative, collaborative and critical thinking skills are lacking, Gammel reported.
“This is a long time coming,” said Cindy Schaub, the assistant superintendent of the Rancho Santa Fe School District, at the RSF School District’s Jan. 10 meeting. “I can remember the roots of this 20 years ago. Global competitiveness is pushing us.”
The standards were initiated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and aim to create a foundation to work collaboratively across states and districts instead of each state having its own set of standards.
So far, 47 states have signed on and adopted the Common Core. The only states that have not are Alaska, Virginia and Texas.
With Common Core, each state was allowed to add up to 15 percent of additional state standards but they could not take any away. California added 8 percent.
Common Core is highly research-driven and while there are fewer standards, they are clearer and more rigorous, Schaub said.
In reading, the focus shifts from fiction to non-fiction texts, a better reflection of what students will need to read and comprehend in real-world situations. Reading and writing will be grounded in evidence from text to support ideas and thinking.
There is more writing across the curriculum, as students will be asked to explain their thinking and understanding.
Students will be writing more argumentative/opinion pieces, explanatory writings, narratives and research projects. The writing curriculum infuses the use of technology in creation, refinement and collaboration in writing.
The Common Core also has standards in speaking and listening in a range of settings, interpreting and critiquing information and formulating responses in multimodal formats.
Mathematics learning and instruction will be the most significant change as it is more focused on thinking and applying and not just following rules and procedures. The drive is for students to grasp the ideas of concepts instead of just memorizing. Students must show their work and explain how they arrived at certain answers.