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What is it?
The Common Core is new, national curriculum standards in English and Math. The standards define what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. California, 44 other states and Washington, D.C. voluntarily adopted both sets of standards. Teachers, content experts and school administrators from all over the country helped write the standards. The initiative was started by governors and state education leaders.
3 reasons you should care — especially if you don’t have school-aged kids
- The biggest share of your tax dollars in California’s general fund — about 40 percent — is dedicated to public schools and community colleges.
- By 2018, some economists project 80 percent of jobs in the US economy will require a college degree. Preparing students to be successful in college will be a key factor in California’s future economic strength.
- Today, about 85 percent of new students who enroll in the state’s community colleges have to take remedial English classes, and 73 percent have to take remedial math.
Who’s for it, who’s against it?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Education, the College Board, National PTA, both major national teachers’ unions and many state departments of education.
Some conservative groups like Freedom Works, which argue that the new standards are a federal takeover of education. Some teachers and parents have opposed changes like an increase in non-fiction reading requirements for students of all ages and the decision not to require eighth graders to take algebra.
Why were new standards needed?
The standards initiative was started to address three main concerns:
(1) Each state had its own standards and was using its own tests to gauge student progress, so there was no reliable way to compare states’ performance.
(2) American students’ lackluster results on international academic assessments led to concerns that US schools were doing particularly poorly in terms of teaching math and science.
(3) More and more US jobs are expected to require a college degree. The Common Core Standards are aimed specifically at making sure students leave high school ready for the working world or to enter college without needing to take remedial classes.
How are these standards different from previous standards?
- Old state standards for English dictated that kindergarteners be able to recite poems, describe places and people and retell stories. The new standards also say students should be able to engage in discussions with classmates and follow rules of conversation like taking turns talking and listening.
- First graders are expected to be able to count to 100 under the old standards. Now, the Common Core incorporates that they should understand the idea of ones and tens and that numbers like 12, 15 and 19 are a ten added to a collection of ones.
- For high schoolers, old writing standards said they should be able to produce business letters, technical writing and other specific types of documents, while the Common Core talks more about expressing opinions that are backed up with evidence from the text.
California’s previous standards focused more on specific things students should learn in each grade, while the Common Core Standards are more about students understanding underlying principals.
The Common Core is focused on developing skills like problem solving, critical thinking, working effectively in teams, using research skills and making persuasive arguments. It requires students to form and share opinions based on evidence from texts and other sources.
A few examples:
Is this a big deal?
Yes. This is the first set of national standards schools will use in the United States. Most states that have adopted the standards are also part of one or two test development consortiums. That means for the first time student performance on tests will be comparable across states.
Major changes are coming to classrooms across San Diego County and California this year. Schools are switching to new math and English standards that promise to improve students’ critical thinking and to better prepare them for college and career.
The Common Core standards are not the political hot button in California that they have been in other states.
California has set aside one-time funding to implement the new Common Core standards, but what districts do with that money is largely up to them.