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Common Core Learning Standards

New educational standards designed to raise the bar for student achievement

In 2011-12, New York State began changing its guidelines for what your child needs to learn in order to achieve success in school and beyond. The new educational guidelines—known as Common Core State Standards (CCSS)—align with a national initiative. They are designed to ensure that students are challenged in school and understand what they are learning on a deeper level and can think critically about it. The annual standardized state tests began to reflect the new standards in 2012-13. Schalmont is well on its way to being prepared for this shift. For more information on Common Core State Standards and what they will mean to Schalmont students, please read the questions and answers below. There are also many other resources listed under More Information in the column on the right.

Source: adapted from http://www.corestandards.org and http://engageny.org

 

Q: What are Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

A: In July 2010, the New York State Board of Regents adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts/literacy and mathematics as the new learning standards for all students in our state. The standards focus on depth and understanding, and provide guidelines of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The standards are designed to ensure that students leave school ready for work and college, so they were designed to be much more rigorous than current standards. They will be implemented in phases in New York's schools through the 2014-15 school year.

 

Q. Who developed these standards?

A: The standards are a national initiative, which has been overseen by the United States Department of Education. Representatives from the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices worked closely with educators, researchers, national education organizations and community groups in designing the guidelines. The standards of other high-achieving nations were also taken into consideration. To date, 45 states have adopted similar CCSS, many as part of their application for funding under the federal Race to the Top educational reform efforts. Proponents of the standards believe that establishing common education standards throughout the nation ensures that all children—regardless of where they live, their socioeconomic status or their personal circumstances—receive an education that will prepare students for the future and help ensure our nation continues to be economically competitive.

 

Q: What's the status of Common Core State Standards in New York and in other states?

A: On July 19, 2010, the New York State Board of Regents adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts/literacy and mathematics as the new learning standards for all students in our state. In New York, the CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. This will also help teachers and parents know what they need to do to support students in their education. The New York State Education Department began introducing elements of the CCSS this year. Starting in the 2012-2013 school year state assessments in 3-8 math and ELA were aligned to the CCLS. Given approval from the Board of Regents, NYS students could begin taking tests as part of the PARCC consortium in 2015-2016.

Q: Where does Schalmont stand in this timeline?

A: Teams of teachers are currently reviewing, developing and implementing lesson plans and curriculum units aligned to the new Common Core State Standards. To help maximize efficiency in aligning the curriculum to the state's new learning standards, the work is being divided among teachers in each school building. The Schalmont Teachers Institute, in collaboration with the Capital Region BOCES Network Team (see question below to learn more about this group), has been instrumental in ensuring teachers are provided with the training and tools necessary to meet the demands of the common core. Rolling out the new standards has become the institute's primary focus. Staff members have been involved in professional book discussions related to the use of data to drive instruction, school reform and secondary, as well as training sessions on Web 2.0 technologies that can be used to bring students to a deeper level of understanding. In addition, best practices are routinely being shared during faculty meetings and throughout other formal and informal venues.

 

Q. What is the Capital Region BOCES Network Team?

Schalmont received a portion of federal funds to help implement all of the changes. However, the amount—just $6,500 per year for four years—is hardly enough to cover the costs for compliance. To that end, the district pooled its funding with 21 other districts to establish the Capital Region BOCES Network Team, consisting of experts in the areas of curriculum, data analysis and instruction, who are responsible for overseeing implementation of the changes. The team is working directly with members of school-based inquiry teams in each of Schalmont's school buildings. Inquiry team members are becoming experts in accessing, understanding and using data to facilitate changes in instructional practice to accelerate learning for underperforming students.

 

Q: What exactly are "interim assessments"?

A: They are teacher-developed and administered tests that are given at regular intervals throughout the year. The purpose of the assessments is to identify students' learning strengths and weaknesses in a curriculum area. Teachers use the results of the assessments to make decisions about their instruction and student learning.

 

Q: What criteria were used to develop the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) at the national level?

A: The CCSS were developed using the following criteria:

  • Standards should be aligned with expectations for college and career success;
  • Standards should be clear, so that educators and parents know what they need to do to help students learn;
  • Standards should be consistent across all states, so that students are not taught to a lower standard just because of where they live;
  • Standards should include both content and the application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Standards should build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards and standards of top-performing nations;
  • Standards should be realistic, for effective use in the classroom;
  • Standards should be based on successful educational initiatives used in top-performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society;
  • Standards should be evidence-based.

 

Q: How will the Common Core State Standards change the teaching and learning process?

A: There are 12 "shifts" or changes that the Common Core requires of schools: six in ELA/literacy and six in mathematics. The shifts are aimed at making students ready for college and a career. For example, students will read more non-fiction so they are able to deal with real world data at work.

For more information about the shifts in the instructional process envisioned by the Common Core standards, see the links below:

 

Q: How will the standards affect other subject areas?

A: These standards establish requirements not only for English Language Arts (ELA) but also for literacy in history/social studies, science and technical subjects. Because students must learn to read, write, speak, listen and use language effectively in a variety of content areas, the standards specify the literacy skills and understanding required for college and career readiness in multiple disciplines. As a natural extension of meeting the charge to define college and career readiness, the standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.

 

Q: What do the new Common Core Learning Standards mean for student learning in mathematics?

A: These standards define what students should understand and be able to do in their study of math. But what does mathematical understanding look like? One hallmark of mathematical understanding is the ability to justify, in a way appropriate to the student's level of mathematical understanding, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from. EngageNY, a website designed to help parents and educators understand the new standards through practical examples, provides an explanation of what this means. The site says, "There is a world of difference between a student who can summon a memorization technique to expand a product such as (a + b)(x + y) and a student who can explain why the equation works the way that it does. The student who can explain the details understands the mathematics, and may have a better chance to succeed at a less familiar task such as expanding (a + b + c)(x + y). Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness."

 

Q: Why are the Common Core State Standards for just ELA/literacy and math?

A: ELA/literacy and math were the chosen for the Common Core State Standards because the skill sets learned in these two subject areas form the foundation for all other subject areas. Additionally, ELA and math are most frequently assessed for accountability purposes.

 

Q: What does this new initiative mean for students with disabilities and English language learners?

A: Common standards will provide a greater opportunity for states to share experiences and best practices within and across states. In turn, this can lead to an improved ability to serve young people with disabilities and English language learners. Additionally, the K-12 English language arts and mathematics standards include information on application of the standards for English language learners and students with disabilities.

Q: When will students be tested on the new Common Core curriculum?

The annual standardized state tests will begin to reflect the new standards in ELA and math in spring 2013.

Parents are encouraged to view sample exam questions on the Engage NY website.

 

Q. How will the changes affect student performance on state exams?

State officials are already warning parents, school leaders, teachers and media outlets to expect a dip in student scores on these exams. In fact, in Tennessee where Common Core-aligned tests were given for the first time last year, test scores dropped 30 percent when compared with previous year's results.

According to New York State Education Commissioner John King, "...we expect the assessment scores will decline…The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance. The results from these new assessments will give educators, parents, policymakers, and the public a more realistic picture of where students are on their path to being well-prepared for the world that awaits them after they graduate from high school."

It's important to remember that it will take time for schools to become accustomed to higher standards and the test scores will reflect this period of transition. In the end, students will ultimately benefit not only by learning more, but also by developing better problem-solving, critical thinking and communications skills.

Q. What else is important to understand about the roll-out of Common Core Learning Standards and New York’s new tests?

During this time of change, it's important for parents, educators and community members to also understand that:

It’s normal for students to feel a certain level of anxiety around any exams - we just don't want them to become overwhelmed by this anxiety. As parents, do what you’ve always done—encourage your children to stay calm, take their time, review their work carefully, and do their best. Just as with anything students do in school, these exams are important and we want students to take pride in their performance.

In terms of the scores, we will not be able to compare this year's exams to last year's exams in the way that we have in the past. Because the instruction leading up to the tests and the tests themselves are different, any dip in student scores should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or teacher performance.

Schalmont remains committed to communicating with parents on the implementation of the new learning standards and the new exams, as well as what the student test scores mean. We will continue to work diligently to teach the skills that are measured by these exams through thoughtful and engaging lessons and activities—not merely test preparation activities. Over time, the new standards will strengthen our instructional programs and this year's tests will serve as a baseline of student performance for the district to build on in future years.