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Articles: Standards

Almost two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, and those who have understand little about them, a new poll finds.

Since No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, trying to close the achievement gap has been on every educator’s mind.

Key to that law has been the requirement of measuring achievement through the administration of standardized tests to determine the extent to which schools are making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) toward that goal.

States and school districts could win some authority back from the federal government under a controversial update to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA) passed in July by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Student Success Act would eliminate the adequate yearly progress measures of No Child Left Behind and allow states to create their own benchmarks. And federal programs like President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative would end, leaving states and districts to develop their own plans for turning around underperforming schools.

Some of the school districts adopting online Common Core assessments to measure academic achievement in 2014-2015 plan to develop their own tests.

In a survey released by Enterasys, a company specializing in wireless systems, 42 percent of schools plan to develop their own tests, while 55 percent of schools are likely to work with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

Recognizing that American K12 students have fallen behind foreign students in their grasp of scientific principles, educators have devised a new set of teaching guidelines that will radically change the way science is taught in classrooms across the United States—including recommendations that climate change and evolution be taught as core elements of scientific knowledge.

Whatever approach is used, writing that upholds the standards of Common Core is demanding, acknowledges Gretchen Schultz, principal assessment editor for ELA at CTB/McGraw-Hill and a content specialist in developing ELA assessments.

In the YouTube video, “Keeping Up With the Common Core: the Latest from the Field,” Schultz spells out how teachers must shift their focus to meet the requirements of the Common Core.

Back in 2010, then-elementary school Principal Catherine White focused on writing in the Attleboro (Mass.) Public Schools. And with that, the school’s fourth graders beat the state average for long composition on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

For generations, teachers in the early elementary years have urged their young pupils to use their brains. They’re still offering the same encouragement, but nowadays they can know even more about what they’re talking about.

Recent advances in neuroscience—from detailed scans of the brain to ongoing research on teaching methods that increase cognitive development—have ushered in a new era of “brain-based” education.

When it comes to transitioning to the Common Core, this is not the time for hesitation. There is too much at stake and too much to accomplish in the very short time before the 2014-2015 assessments are administered by SMARTER Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Of course, no one wants to hurry into a mistake that would be costly. So what do you do if you haven’t yet put all of the pieces together to transition to the Common Core State Standards?

Ask high school juniors at Da Vinci Charter Academy in the Davis (Calif.) Joint Unified School District, to explain the causes and consequences of war in American history, and you won’t get a rote recitation of dates and places.

Instead, these students are able to demonstrate their learning by screening the preview for a feature film they produced on the conflict in Afghanistan through the eyes of a young American soldier. They can offer highlights of their interviews with Vietnam veterans, which they contributed to the Library of Congress as primary source material.

Expanded Learning ModelsAs the debate over whether increasing the school day or year will improve student achievement trudges on, a new report reveals there is just not enough evidence to support this theory.

A De Soto (Ill.) Grade School teacher helps a student with an assignment last fall. Illinois’ standardized test results show that the achievement gap among elementary school students is narrowing.

A friend of mine is in the midst of a yearlong quest to lose 20 pounds before her high school reunion. She starts each day by stepping onto a bathroom scale to measure her progress. The results are not coming as quickly as she would like. Of course, my friend could just stop her daily weigh-ins or convince herself that the scale is of no use in her effort because it isn’t as accurate as it could be. But she knows better. So she continues the slow, tough, unglamorous work of changing her eating and exercise habits to reach her goal.

Resistance to High Stakes Testing Spreads

A rising tide of protest is sweeping across the nation as growing numbers of parents, teachers, administrators and academics take action against high-stakes testing. Instead of test-and-punish policies, which have failed to improve academic performance or equity, the movement is pressing for broader forms of assessment. From Texas to New York and Florida to Washington, reform activists are pressing to reduce the number of standardized exams.

On July 30, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap, released a study that, according to David Keeling, vice president of communications, tells a story of systemic neglect for our nation’s best teachers.