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Articles: Common Core

The first day of practice testing at Greer Elementary School in the San Juan USD in California in March.

Field testing for the Common Core assessments wrapped up in June, with districts in 36 states reporting mostly successful first runs despite some challenges around technology, test questions and scheduling.

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Since 2011, Superintendent Elizabeth Celania Fagen has helped shift Douglas County Schools from a good district to a great one.

In the last year, the Douglas County School District in suburban Denver has been called a national model by former U.S. secretary of education William J. Bennett and “the most interesting school district in America” by the American Enterprise Institute.

The rollout of the Common Core State Standards in classrooms nationwide this school year has been “bumpy” as states struggle to provide professional development for teachers, align curricular materials and create assessments that adequately measure the standards, according to a February Fordham Institute report.

Elementary students in Metropolitan School District in Indiana use Chromebooks for lessons and assessments.

At least one midwestern district is ready—or at least thinks it’s ready—for what most states are calling Common Core assessments. The Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Ind., an urban district in Indianapolis, had a jumpstart on technology and assessments thanks in part to a three-year, $28.5 million Race to the Top grant.

The redesigned SAT, set for spring 2016, will measure college and career skills.

Administrators in coming years may feel less stressed about adding SAT prep to students’ regular coursework. The newly redesigned SAT, which students will start taking in spring 2016, will be more in line with the Common Core standards being rolled out in schools nationwide.

Linda Gojak, NCTM president, speaks at last year’s NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition.

Giving math teachers the training and classroom tools to effectively implement the Common Core is the biggest challenge school districts face when it comes to improving achievement.

That’s why making teachers comfortable with the new standards will be a driving force in many of the sessions at this spring’s National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) conference.

Former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue is leading a new digital education nonprofit called the Digital Learning Institute.

NONPROFIT LEADER

Former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue is leading a new digital education nonprofit called the Digital Learning Institute, which aims to expand technology use in the classroom and increase instructional opportunities for teachers. Perdue, who was a teacher before entering politics, received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Professor Tim Shanahan, director of the University of Illinois’ Center for Literacy, is keynote speaker at the IRA conference in May.

Take it from one expert: Implementing Common Core literacy standards will be “hell” if district administrators can’t answer questions from educators, parents and policymakers about how the new standards will help students learn.

Fifth-grader Cici Collins’ (second from the right) cancer survival story inspired a Common Core-aligned curriculum for her entire class last fall.

Upon entering middle school last fall, cancer survivor Cici Collins had no idea her story would inspire a new curriculum for her entire grade.

Wisconsin middle and high school students are learning more about their state’s farming and produce industries through a new curriculum developed by the state’s Ag in the Classroom program.

The “Telling Our Agricultural Story” curriculum includes print and online materials that highlight information about local farms and their production methods, says Darlene Arneson, the Ag in the Classroom coordinator.

The Oyster River Cooperative School District in Durham, N.H., recently upgraded to gigabit wired connectivity and replaced its legacy Wi-Fi with Aruba Networks. Above, Carolyn Eastman, assistant superintendent, meets with IT Director Joshua Olstad.

Implementing technology upgrades required for Common Core assessments can be more opportunity than burden for districts seeking the most academic achievement from their IT spending.

Students in the Highlands School District in Brackenridge, Pa., start computer classes in kindergarten to learn the typing skills needed for Common Core assessments.

Kindergarteners nationwide are stretching their small hands across keyboards to learn the basics of typing in preparation for the online Common Core assessments.

The new standards don’t introduce keyboarding until the third grade, the first year students are assessed. But elementary schools are starting earlier to make sure students are competent in basic computer use before the exams that begin next school year.

School district leaders must ignore the politics of Common Core and focus on the practical realities of implementation.

As widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards moves ever closer, the initiative is coming under attack from both the left and right. But school district leaders must ignore the politics and focus on the practical realities of implementation: costs, technology, and training, K12 leaders say.

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards say they have a variety of concerns about the effects the standards will have on school districts’ curriculum.

Math standards under Common Core will push the teaching of algebra back a year, from eighth to ninth grade, in many districts, say Lindsey Burke, educational policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation and Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute. Both also insist that the teaching of literature will take a backseat as emphasis shifts to informational texts.

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