Those new standard things
Whatever label you have heard them called by, the Common Core State Standards (herein, Common Core) are something almost everyone in the field of education is at least vaguely familiar with. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a concerned citizen, or somewhere in between, chances are you have heard something about the Common Core.
Previously, each state defined its own educational standards. These standards varied widely, and achieving a level of “proficiency” in one state was not necessarily related to achieving “proficiency” in another state. Now, with the introduction of the Common Core, students in all states that have adopted the Common Core (forty five, to date) will be required to demonstrate proficiency in the same skills and concepts that are “required for the 21st century” instead of each individual state’s standards. The Common Core standards are designed to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn regardless of where the student lives.
As educational researchers/evaluators, we are excited for these new standards. One reason we are excited is that it will now be easier to truly compare students, and teachers, across states, which is helpful when we are conducting multi-state textbook efficacy studies. For example, with the 8 Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices, we now have a convenient way to evaluate teachers’ coverage of overarching Common Core practices. Is a teacher asking his or her students to explain how they got the answer they gave, and analyze their classmates’ explanations of how they got their answers? That’s Practice 3 (Construct Viable Arguments and Critique the Reasoning of Others) in action. When teachers are requiring students to use correct math vocabulary (such as “addition” instead of just saying “plus”), that’s Practice 6, Attend to Precision, in action.
Additionally, the Common Core will provide rigorous expectations for what students in each grade level should know. Specifically, this will include a focus on increasing students’ critical thinking skills across all subjects. Already, we have seen improvement in students’ abilities to explain their thought processes and we are looking forward to seeing further rollout of the Common Core and how it is implemented in real life classrooms as well as its effect on our evaluations. What experiences have you had, or anticipate having, with the Common Core?