Educational Services Division
California’s Common Core State Standards Make their Debut
Educators across our county are spending time this year becoming familiar with the new Common Core State Standards in professional development workshops offered by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. These California educators have joined a national movement to adopt common standards and assessments for English language arts and mathematics. Currently, standards for what students should know and be able to do vary among states, as does the difficulty of the assessments used to determine whether students are meeting those standards. Common standards allow for collaboration among states on best practices and professional development.
Common learning goals provide a clear vision of what educators and parents in all states should aim for. These learning goals help ensure that students meet college and work expectations, are prepared to succeed in a global economy and society, and are provided with rigorous content and application of higher knowledge thinking.
Adopted in California in August 2010, the K-12 Common Core State Standards were developed through a state-led effort to establish consistent and clear education standards for English language arts and mathematics. Benchmarked against international standards, the Common Core Standards assist students in their preparation to complete the requirements for enrollment at a California public university. Recognizing that students in our country were not being adequately prepared for college and careers, this initiative was launched by and supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association. In the Common Core Standard adoption process, California added supporting standards to complete the unique picture necessary for California students.
The Common Core also added strength to the existing California standards by including additional standards for vocabulary and new standards for collaborative discussions. Literacy standards that focus on reading and writing instruction during history/social studies, science, and technology also were included. In mathematics, standards were added to demonstrate a stronger emphasis on number sense and algebraic thinking. Implementation of the Common Core in California’s schools will occur in stages over the next few years.
Educators who participate in these professional development sessions are provided the opportunity to interact with the new standards as well as experience what the new assessments might look like. Analyzing the assessments (like the examples seen below) allows participants the opportunity to think about ways their instruction will need to change in order for students to successfully demonstrate their knowledge of the new standards.
Those that participate in these professional development opportunities are learning that while many of the skills being taught across content areas remain the same, the methods and practices used for teaching and learning will look very different. Teachers in all content areas (including Science, History, and Social Studies) will be responsible for teaching students to read text and write about their learning. Students will be expected to work collaboratively with their peers, but held individually accountable for what they have learned during their work. Rather than just filling in bubbles to select a correct answer, students will be asked to model, present, demonstrate, and write about what they have learned. Possessing the skills to explain their thinking and to use evidence to support/defend their responses and opinions will be as important for students to do as arriving at the right answer.
Educators, who have found themselves forced to rush through their content in order to cover all of our current standards, are finding the content of the new Common Core State Standards refreshing and exciting. They see before them the opportunity to go deeper with the curriculum while challenging their students to demonstrate their learning in ways they haven’t had the time for in many years.