What’s ‘Common Core’?

Last winter, I dedicated a column to an explanation of the new Common Core State Standards. In fact, I started with, “A big change is on the horizon for California schools: the implementation of Common Core State Standards.” In September, I read about a recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the public’s attitudes toward the public schools, and it revealed that 62 percent of adult Americans surveyed had never even heard of the Common Core. Recently there has been an enormous amount of press about Common Core, some accurate and, frankly, a great deal of it just not so accurate. So, I thought I’d give the topic some local flavor.

Standards are what all students should know in each subject and at each grade level. Standards are not new to Visalia Unified or to California. We have worked with state standards since 1997 and “No Child Left Behind” accountability requirements since 2002. Standards and accountability have greatly improved learning for children in Visalia. Every year, we have more and more students at or above grade level across our district. In fact, the number of children at grade level has more than doubled in the last ten years – in Visalia.

We all have heard criticisms of educational accountability. Some say it has narrowed what kids learn in school, many feel it has relied on “bubble tests” too much or that there is just too much testing. Others are concerned about the need for problem solving, communication and writing skills.

The Common Core State Standards address many of these concerns. The new assessment system will be, once it is fully implemented, based on computer-adapted software; and that innovation promises to reduce testing time and to assess skills far beyond just multiple-choice questions. Common Core are the next generation of standards and are more strongly based on what students need to be able to do to enjoy a successful adult life in our globally connected world. One of the fundamental expectations from Common Core is that students be college and career ready when they leave high school. So, when I think about our children, I want to make sure they are prepared to be successful.

Common Core Standards will encourage students to read the kinds of material they will see in the workplace, along with literature and history. Students will spend more time problem solving, thinking through critical issues, justifying their opinions by text references and facts, and communicating their work to others in writing. I believe we will continue to devote time and resources to the visual and performing arts as well as English language arts, mathematics, social studies and science.

Common Core Standards are not the latest educational fad–it is what our children need to learn so that they can successfully compete and succeed, no matter what they decide to do after they complete high school. For more information on Common Core State Standards, visit “The Council of Great City Schools” website at www.cgcs.org.

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