What are the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and how will they change the instruction our students receive? A number of questions swirl around the changes our students will experience in Sonoma classrooms. We spoke with Louann Carlomagno (Sonoma School superintendent) and Robert Curtis (director of Curriculum and Instruction) to get some of your questions answered.
What exactly are the Common Core State Standards?
Educational standards describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade. They are not a curriculum, they are an end result. In California, the state Board of Education decides on the standards (or end result goal) for all students, from kindergarten through high school. The California Department of Education helps schools make sure that all students are meeting the standards.
In 2010, education leaders in 48 states got together to write a new set of standards for students across the U.S. – the Common Core State Standards. Until that time, each state had its own separate set of education standards, or list of skills that students were expected to be able to do by the time they graduate each grade.
The Common Core State Standards represent perhaps the most significant, widespread education reform that has ever occurred in American public schools. Currently, the vast majority of states have adopted the standards and most plan to assess students’ progress on them during the 2014-15 school year.
How will they change the instruction my child receives in the classroom?
In a nutshell, the Common Core Standards encourage schools to teach fewer concepts, but in more depth. Existing standards are thought to currently focus too much on Level One in the chart below, while the CCSS will focus on knowledge Levels Three and Four.
While fewer concepts might sound like classwork will get easier, one complaint of the Common Core State Standards is that they are expected to be more rigorous than most states’ existing standards. The good news, according to Carlomagno, is that California is already widely perceived to have rigorous standards.
The Common Core State Standards center around identifying big ideas and then helping students to gain a greater depth of knowledge of those concepts. The standards are not a curriculum, they are supposed to, instead, provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to know and be able to do.
In Common Core math, fewer concepts are presented each year, and more time is provided for students to explore multiple ways to solve a problem, explain how they arrived at an answer, and apply new math concepts to real life situations. According to the district, students may have fewer, more complex homework problems each night.
In Common Core language arts, students read from a wide variety of genres, including fiction and non-fiction texts. There is a focus on making connections between different types of reading: for example reading a poem, a short story, and a magazine article about the same topic; or comparing a poem and a story that share a common theme.