What are Common Core Learning Standards?
The Common Core Learning Standards are a set of clear guidelines showing what students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 should be able to do in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics. With these standards, students start by learning basic skills in early grades and build up to mastering more difficult skills and concepts—think of the process as moving up a “staircase of knowledge.”
By having common standards, all students across the state—and across the country—should have the opportunity to learn the same skills. In the past, every state had its own set of academic standards, meaning U.S. students were learning different skills and concepts at different rates. The Common Core Standards give all students an equal opportunity to learn at higher levels. In turn, pupils should graduate with a greater chance to succeed in college, careers and life.
Why are Common Core Learning Standards being introduced?
The new standards are designed to better prepare students to tackle college-level courses and gain skills they’ll need in current and future careers. In New York, fewer than 35 percent of students are graduating from school with the skills they need to pass college courses. Employers in the state and nation report that newly hired staff do not have the basic reading, writing and math skills to do their jobs well. Changing these trends means changing the approaches we use to educate our children.
What do these changes mean for our children?
With the new standards, students will be learning skills that are more in-depth, advanced and challenging than the content they learned in the past. These changes are called Common Core “shifts.”
For example, in English Language Arts (ELA), pupils are:
- Reading more non-fiction;
- Learning about the world by reading;
- Reading more challenging material;
- Talking about reading using evidence gathered from the material read;
- Learning how to write based on what was read;
- Learning more vocabulary words.
In mathematics, students are:
- Building on content and concepts learned in the previous grade level;
- Spending more time on fewer concepts (i.e., learn in a more in-depth way);
- Developing speed and accuracy in solving problems;
- Learning to really understand math and how to use it in real-world situations;
- Proving mathematics knowledge by showing step-by-step how problems were solved.
These skills will be tested for the first time in New York’s upcoming grades 3-8 ELA and math exams.
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.
Common Core Links:
Common Core Learning Standards for ELA: http://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/nysp12cclsela.pdf
Common Core Learning Standards for Math: http://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/nysp12cclsmath.pdf