April 24, 2012

Setting a Course for College and Career

Common Core State Standards bring consistency to teaching, learning, college and career readiness

Are U.S. students being prepared for today’s global economy? Is our educational system keeping pace with those of other countries? What exactly do young people need to know to be successful in the 21st century?

As a parent you may not think about these issues on an international scale, but you certainly think about them when it comes to your own kids. Are they learning what they need to know to thrive in the modern world, or is their curriculum as antiquated as penmanship classes?

The Common Core States Standards were developed precisely to give definitive answers to these questions. They were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in response to a problem that can be summed up very simply: too many students were passing proficiency tests and graduating from high school who were still unprepared for college or a career.

What Students Need To Know
Educators have rarely agreed about what students need to know in order to achieve success. Beginning in 2009, the Governors Association and CCSSO joined forces to develop a list of language arts and mathematics standards that would clearly spell out what every student in the country should know before getting a high school diploma. The result of that effort is a collection of concepts, content knowledge, and skills critical to advancement at each grade level. What the standards are not, however, is a national curriculum or a dictate on what or how teachers should teach.

The Common Core standards were arrived at through a process that included evaluating the different state standards already in existence, and building on the examples that had proven most effective in preparing students for life after high school. Researchers also studied successful models from other countries and consulted with representatives of higher education and business.

In June 2010, the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics were released. Since that time, they've been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The standards in ELA focus on skills and knowledge within the topics of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language, and Media and Technology. The Mathematics standards begin with a foundation in whole numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and decimals. From that point, the standards seek to prepare students for algebra, high school math, and ultimately college and career by exploring mathematical ways of thinking and emphasizing mathematical modeling. (For more on the specific expectations associated with both ELA and math, visit the Common Core State Standards Initiative website.)

Meeting The Challenge
Of course, adopting new Common Core standards is one thing; getting students to meet those standards is quite another. It means changes at all levels of the education system. Meanwhile, parents still face a series of bewildering choices in schools, teaching philosophies, and curricula and the Common Core standards do not make those choices any easier. However, in the future, they should make it possible to better evaluate those choices by allowing parents to measure school results against a national benchmark. And that in turn might make parents’ jobs just a little bit more manageable.


For still more on the Common Core standards, watch this short video and others like it from The Hunt Institute:


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