This week, Pointe’s principals and I are attending the Arizona Department of Education’s Leading Change conference. Most of the breakout sessions relate to the Common Core. During the session “Engaging Parents and the Public in Supporting Arizona’s Common Core Standards,” I realized I need to make sure our families have a basic understanding of this hot topic and voice why I welcome the Common Core. So, instead of doing my homework, I feel inspired to fill you in…
Education is the responsibility of each state, not the federal government. For decades, each state has developed and adopted K-12 academic standards, defining what students need to know and be able to do at each grade. State assessments (like the AIMS) measure whether students have met those standards. In theory, that system sounds great and I am a firm believer in preserving state rights. However, this disjointed approach to education is doing a disservice to our kids. Our society has become very mobile and an ever-increasing number of students change schools at least once during their K-12 education, oftentimes, mid-year. With such a range of state standards, incoming students are frequently “out of sync” with their new school. They can miss key concepts. For instance: schools in California may teach multiplying fractions in a different grade than Arizona or New Mexico. Imagine going to a new school where your classmates have mastered the ability to convert fractions into decimals and you didn’t even know that was possible! Leaders from individual states (including Arizona) recognized the problem and decided to do something about it. State leaders in K-12 education, higher education, business, and policy worked together for years to develop a core set of common standards in math and English language arts. The Common Core is the result of that collaboration.
What is it??
So, the Common Core is the new (and improved) set of K-12 standards for English language arts and mathematics. Arizona adopted the standards in 2010 and our public schools (district and charter) are required to fully implement the Common Core standards for the upcoming school year. The Common Core standards require students to develop a deeper level of understanding than the standards Arizona has been using for the past decade. The Common Core is not a curriculum. It does not dictate what books our students read.
The Common Core is more rigorous than Arizona’s previous standards. Teachers will emphasize students’ abilities to work with information….not just to have the right answer, but to have a deep enough understanding to articulately defend that answer.
Why do I like it?
The course of study at Pointe Schools was founded on the same premise as the Common Core – that all students should graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge to be successful in college, career, and life. We started with the end goal and worked our way down to kindergarten which is exactly how the consortium of states originally developed the Common Core (many other states have also chosen to adopt the standards).
I am a firm believer every educated citizen in the United States should know certain things – that cultural literacy is important. Based on this conviction, Pointe’s elementary schools have used Core Knowledge…E.D. Hirsch’s series “What Every First (second, third, etc.) Grader Should Know” (1991). The Common Core is an extension of that philosophy. It focuses on skill sets, what our students can do. For example: Can the student “comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines and they can construct effective arguments and convey intricate or multifaceted information”? (Common Core, 2010).
Pointe Schools has been actively transitioning to the Common Core standards for the past several years. We updated our math curriculum last year. This year Canyon and Pinnacle will implement updated English language arts curriculum. We provided professional development for our teachers throughout the year and will continue to provide support as teachers implement the new standards.
With the new standards will come a new assessment. AIMS will be replaced (and there was much rejoicing!!). The new test (PARCC) will be computer-based so schools can use the results (which is kind of the point, right?). I am thankful the timing for the new assessment works with our cycle for updating technology.
So there you have it! That’s the quick 411 on Common Core.
…and I need to get back to my homework.
Principal Rhone and Principal Smailagic thought I should put my homework comment into context. I am in ASU West’s doctoral program. I love the program and I am learning a lot…and I have renewed compassion for our students!