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Common Core Comes to East


Change is coming. Next school year, education in the state of Kansas will be significantly different from its current state.Math, English, test standards — all are about to change.

A new form of education standards will be introduced–the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Kansas is not alone. Not only will these changes be implemented in schools across the state, but students in 44 other states will face the same changes. A new form of education standards will be introduced — the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

It took 14 months to create the Common Core Standards in collaboration with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Experts, administrators and teachers specifically formed the standards with one distinct goal in mind: to prepare students for life after graduation.

“It is important to have standards that are preparing students for college and their careers,” Carrie Heath Phillips, Director of Common Core Standards said.

The standards were designed to teach students the information they need to take with them to the next grade level. In this system, the information taught to students will build year after year, eventually meeting a main goal of preparing students for college.

The new Common Core standards will replace the current state standards. However, each state or school district has the choice to include additional standards if they choose to do so.

“For parents, teachers and students, they will have a clearer idea of what kids need to do in each grade,” Phillips said. “Previously, standards may be a huge long laundry list of things you need to do, but the standards are supposed to be more focused and more clear.”

The changes that will take place in the Common Core standards are in two main subjects: English and mathematics.

These standards will transform classrooms and change today’s education. The new Common Core standards will replace the current state standards. However, each state or school district has the choice to include additional standards if they choose to do so.

The changes that will take place in the Common Core standards are in two main subjects: English and mathematics.

In the Shawnee Mission School District, English will be based on the Common Core curriculum. In mathematics, third grade through high school, are currently in a transitional curriculum.

“The transition is there because as we are preparing students for Common Core, we still have to address some of the objectives in the former curriculum in order to fully prepare students for the state assessments because the tests that students take this year are based on the former curriculum,” Betsy Regain, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for SMSD said.

Students will read more informational texts and there will be more emphasis on reading comprehension skills. There will also be a focus on detailed writing and in both short and long term research projects.

“It is good because it lets teachers teach the writing process,” English Department Head, Jeannette Bonjour, said. “It will be good for teachers to be able to slow down, to spend that time. Kids will have more of an opportunity to ask questions about the process.”

Math is an extension of the main goal. It will be linked to everyday life, life after high school and critical-decision making. On the high school level, there will be a heavy emphasis on mathematical modeling, the use of math and statistics to analyze an empirical situation, understand them better and improve decision making.

With these new standards, students are expected to be more challenged. According to Phillips state test scores are expected to go down.

“We are going to have harder tests because the tests are going to be based on the new standards,” Phillips said. “They are more challenging because the new tests and new standards are based on expectations in college and in career.”

Although the state scores are expected to decrease, the national and international test scores are expected to increase.

“I think that the new test will be more realistic and more accurate,” Phillips said. “I think that those [national] test scores will go up, but not immediately.”

Many of the new standards are designed to create more life-like situations. There will be more emphasis on presentation and models that are similar to those that are used in businesses.

“I think some of the changes they are making are pretty good and the part that I really like about the change is that there is an emphasis, in math where there is more application,” Principal Karl Krawitz said. “Instead of the traditional style or approach of teach, drill, teach, drill, it is just mundane, so I think application is going to be huge.”

This new system will also allow students to be able to move from one state or another and be able to learn the same subjects that were being taught at his or her previous school at a similar pace. This more consistent approach will allow teachers, administrator and students to work together to make the transition easier. In the past, student transfers have had to either play catch-up or slow-down.

“I like the idea of common core because I think it is very much focused on students and on having high expectations for all students, but still providing scaffolding to help students that need it to get up to that expectations,” Bonjour said.

Although most states are on board, there still remains a small fraction are reluctant to adopt the standards. Texas, Minnesota, Alaska, Virginia and Nebraska have yet to adopt the full Common Core standards.

“It is their own choice if [the states] want to adopt the standards or not,” Phillips said. “I think that those states [that have yet to adopted the standards] have more of a cowboy-mentality, a do it themselves attitude.”

According to Phillips, many of these states agree with the elements of the Common Core standards, but have decided that they want to have their own system for education. Minnesota, for example, is adopting the English language arts standards, but not the math portion.

The Common Core Standards also require that every high school student takes Geometry or a math-based class that contains the elements of Geometry. Also, every student is required to have completed Algebra 2 by his or her junior year.

“They set a goal which is nice, but is it realistic for every student to be able to attain,” Dr. Krawitz said. “And if so, how are you going to equip staff members to teach those concepts that those kids haven’t been able to get ever or even get past a very introductory program.”

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Anne Willman

Anne is the print Co-Editor-in-Chief. She enjoys writing, designing and broadcasting. Anne will be playing golf for the K-State Wildcats next year. Read Full »

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