A REAL-WORLD APPROACH TO LEARNING AND TEACHING
Bethel, along with districts across the country, has been making the switch to the Common Core State Standards. The reason is simple. We believe students have the right to high standards for learning and should receive the best education available. But, why theCommon Core? And, why now?
The Common Core is a set of learning goals that are consistent across school districts locally, statewide and nationally. Five years ago, a non-partisan group of governors and state school chiefs started working together on CCSS. Prior to that, there was no uniformity for what students were learning – what was taught by a district in one state could be much different than what the expectations were in another. The panel aimed to develop one set of standards so that all students, regardless of where they live or attend school would be learning what they needed in order to compete in an increasingly global economy, and, ultimately find individual success. Since this effort began, hundreds of teachers, education researchers, mathematicians, and other experts from across the nation have provided input and guidance in this process.
Already 46 states have adopted the CCSS. But, what does this mean for your student? It means the district can do a better job ofpreparing your child for college, work, and life. By using the CCSS, students can develop a deeper understanding of basic subjects, such as math, reading, writing and English language arts.
Common Core essentially sets a standard for the knowledge and skills every student should have at every grade level, kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s like a roadmap that helps educators guide them through their path of learning.
CCSS => A Better Education for Kids
Subject mastery is key. The Common Core standards are designed to ensure real understanding. The materials go deeper into fewer topics, so kids master the material instead of just memorizing. Learning is more hands-on with a focus on what students will use in real life.
Builds critical thinking skills. The Common Core standards emphasize learning fundamentals so students truly understand basic concepts and can use them as the building blocks for critical thinking.
Teacher collaboration. Teachers across the nation will be able to collaborate and learn from each other because other states are using the same high standards.
Consistent, high expectations for all students. Before Common Core, what counted as grade-level work in one state might be less than average in another. Common Core provides a clear and consistent set of learning standards and expectations so we can truly know what students are learning.
Curriculum that supports the Core
To help students meet these higher standards, we have adopted new curriculum in major content areas. This year, the district is complementing the Big Ideas and Engage New York math programs an adoption of Springboard for English language. In selecting these texts, the district’s goal was to find curriculum that best aligned to the CCSS. This ensures students are learning exactly what they need to be.
While it is the district’s responsibility to provide curriculum and resources, teaching staff will continue to assess student progress and adapt teaching and learning to ensure that all students are making sufficient growth and reaching their potential.
The Economics of CCSS
In 2014, there were 25,000 jobs in Washington State that went unfilled because there were not enough highly skilled workers for them. And, this figure is expected to double in the next three years. By implementing the Common Core, educators are trying to fill the gap by giving new graduates what they need to compete and work in this global economy.
There is, however, another benefit of creating one set of standards. Today, people and jobs are extremely mobile. That means Washington must compete with other states and nations to find qualified employees. The development of higher standards ensures these positions will not go unfilled.
The new standards will allow students from military families to continue their K-12 studies with fewer disruptions because what they will be learning in another state will be the same as what they are learning here.
Last year, Bethel began the process of migrating to a new testing system called Smarter Balanced, which better aligns with the common core. Under this system, a summative test is given during the last 12 weeks of school. Optional interim tests allow for track student progress toward their end-of-year goals. A research-based digital library of professional development materials and instructional tools are available to teachers, as is, a secure online reporting system that will show student achievement and progress toward understanding the standards.
Smarter Balanced tests will replace the state’s current Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) test for reading, writing and math, given to students in grades 3-8. A version of the exam targeting college and career readiness will also be given to 11th graders. Students will continue to take the science MSP in grades 5 and 8 as well as algebra 1, geometry and biology end-of-course exams. Passing the Smarter Balanced tests will be required starting with the Class of 2019.
The new Smarter Balanced tests are administered online. They require students to apply their knowledge to real-world problems and be able to write persuasively. Already the test is offered in 20 states. But, since it is new to Washington and because the Common Core State Standards are more difficult than our state’s former learning standards in math, reading and writing, there is an expectation that scores may initially be lower than what students, parents and teachers have seen in the past.