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Shifting to common core standards


Director of Schools

The most important shift in the education reform movement today is the shift to common core state standards. Forty-six states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia are all making the shift to the newest set of standards for English/ language arts, literacy, and mathematics.
So if virtually everyone is making this shift to elevate the learning of all students in our country then we must ask what will this mean for the students right here in the Warren County School District, and how are we going to make this shift?
I’ve been very fortunate to be on the cutting edge of the common core shift in Tennessee having the privilege of serving on the Common Core Leadership Council for the Tennessee Department of Education. Serving on the leadership council has enabled me to learn firsthand what the common core standards are and what they can do for our school district and the students we serve.
We are currently fully implementing the common core standards in grades K-2 in English and math and we are making the instructional shift with partial implementation in grades 3-8 math. In the 2013-14 school year we will fully implement the common core standards in all grade levels and we will take our first assessment on common core, with the PARCC assessment, in school year 2014-15. The purpose of the standards is to elevate the rigor in all grade levels. I hope to outline for you the basic shifts and what parents, teachers, students, and the community can expect in the coming months and years in regard to the common core state standards.
The English/ language arts and literacy standards include shifts and expectations in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that can be used across the curriculum and in all subject areas. In making this shift, students and teachers alike will be working to improve their performance in the following critical areas.
• Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction text: Students will be expected to be grounded in information about the world around them which will build the background knowledge needed to be successful in other subjects such as science, social studies, and technical subjects.
• Reading and writing grounded in evidence: Common core standards emphasize using evidence from nonfiction text to create responses in narrative form that detail a command of sequence and detail that is informative. Asking students to justify their answers in writing is a drastic shift from the past multiple choice exams. The standards are very focused on the complexity of text because the ability to comprehend complex texts is the most significant factor in student success.
Math standards will have a greater focus on fewer topics, which is a movement away from the inch-deep, mile-wide curriculum of the past. Educators will be expected to significantly narrow the scope of content in each grade level and deepen the time spent on the major topics. The major topics in grades K-2 are addition, subtraction, and problem solving. Grades 3-5 will focus on the topics of multiplication, division, and fractions. In grades 6-8 the major topics consist of ratios, early algebraic expression, and linear algebra.
These topical shifts will enable teachers to go deeper into the subject content allowing students to gain mastery of all major topics before moving to the next grade level band and then into the complex world of the high school math subjects. The shifts that will be expected are major shifts for teachers and students alike, but if all students are expected to be college and/ or career ready by the time they graduate they are necessary shifts.
In conclusion, the common core state standards are built on the best of the state standards currently in use nationwide. The common core state standards cannot be seen as one more thing to do or just the great binder replacement of 2012. The shifts expected in the subjects of English/ language arts and math will hopefully reinforce the idea that fewer things done well will allow all students to learn at a level that will allow them to be college or career ready.
The shift to common core will be a slow one but a necessary shift if we are to educate our students for the world and job market in which they will be expected to compete when they graduate and enter the world of work.

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