Common Core Standards Daily Update // December 19, 2014

News You Can Use:

Educators for Higher Standards: “Focusing on the ‘How’ to Aid Student Learning with Common Core”: Justin Dye, a teacher at Arizona’s Heritage Elementary school, writes CCSS have improved student achievement while protecting teacher autonomy. “Alongside the shift to Common Core standards, our school has been able to increase student growth and proficiency by providing teacher training and programs.” CCSS were developed “for teachers by teachers,” Dye says, and continued teacher input will help better implement the higher standards. He adds CCSS better prepare students by putting a greater emphasis on problem-solving skills, and requiring students to demonstrate the reasoning they used to arrive at an answer.

What It Means: CCSS put a greater emphasis on how students arrive at answer, so that in addition to getting it right, teachers help them develop the reasoning skills necessary to succeed at high levels of learning. Teachers who have worked closely with Standards overwhelming support their implementation and believe they will help students achieve to higher levels of learning.



Ed Surge: “How Common Core Is Changing Math Instruction for the Better”: CCSS put a greater focus on fewer math concepts, helping students construct better building blocks for higher levels of learning, New Mexico teacher Carolyn Torres writes. “The in-depth standards for math are based on conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application,” Torres says, “The math is not set up to be harder; the students are meant to understand and apply it better.” The Standards emphasize multiple problem-solving methods, so they can “persevere through the process,” and they put a greater importance on how a student arrives at an answer, in addition to whether they got a problem correct. “CCSS were written to help provide a quality set of standards for all students and help them become real-world problem-solvers,” Torres ends. “They will become better with opportunities and practice, and the same can be said for teaching.”

What It Means: CCSS introduce students to a range of problem solving techniques, including traditional approaches, to help develop a better conceptual understanding of math functions and numbers. By equipping students to explain their reasoning, the Standards help them develop strong building blocks to reach higher levels of learning.



New England Journal of Public Policy: “The Development and Design of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics”: Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers for the CCSS math standards, explains the Standards do not dictate what is taught in classrooms or what materials teacher must use. “Standards are not textbooks. Standards are not tests. They are, fundamentally, a list,” Zimba notes. As far back as 2007 experts began preparing CCSS, and Zimba points out, the Standards do not determine graduation policies or specify all four years of high school math – both of which are left under local control. Unlike states’ previous standards, CCSS math standards mirror those of top-performing countries and emphasize mastery of procedure, understanding of math concepts, and the ability to apply math to solve problems. Zimba concludes CCSS are a “promising and necessary beginning” to improve student achievement in math across the country.

What It Means: As Zimba points out, contrary to claims CCSS were developed behind closed doors, they were developed by a committee of math experts that included teachers, professors, math education researchers and state leaders. The committee’s work benefitted from public input that helped to ensure students graduate high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college and careers. The Standards raise student expectations and provide more conceptual learning to help all students achieve to higher levels of learning. As an accompanying fact sheet notes, the Standards are a combination of three things: “mastery of procedure, understanding of math concepts, and the ability to apply math to solve problems.” The key point is that your child will still learn the traditional math facts, be able to do math from memory, and will understand mathematics better than students have in the past, so that they can use it forever.



Sacramento Business Journal: “Common Core Can Help Region Fill Jobs”: CCSS better prepare students with the skills to meet the demands of a competitive workforce, Christopher Cabaldon writes. “[CCSS] provide a vehicle to help California rethink and broaden its approach to workforce development,” Cabaldon notes. “Common Core will provide all California public school students with core academic knowledge and the same skills that create effective workers.” Cabaldon points out the business community and other groups support the Standards because of their promise to help students develop better critical thinking skills and content mastery. “Tapping into its emphasis on college and career readiness presents the ability for cities, businesses and schools to collaborate like never before.”

What It Means: By focusing on fewer, clearer benchmarks in each grade, CCSS help students build a comprehensive understanding of subject material and better prepare them for the challenges of college-level work or a competitive career. According to a recent Scholastic study, more than two-thirds of teachers who have worked closely with the Standards have seen a positive impact on students’ critical thinking skills and their ability to use reasoning. According to a study by Student Achievement Partners, no state’s previous education standards were more closely aligned to those of top performing countries as CCSS.



Educators for Higher Standards: “10 Ways Common Core Helps Improve Achievement for English Language Learners”: Eric Brandt, an assistant principal at a school with a majority of English as a Second Language (ESL) students, says CCSS better prepares English learners for college or a career. Brandt notes CCSS addresses “all four language domains,” including speaking, listening, reading and writing; and through collaboration encourages teachers to use more rigorous assignments. He adds that as early as kindergarten, CCSS sets high expectations that set up students for success in higher level material. Brandt cites evidence CCSS are working: in Laurel Street elementary school in Compton, CA, 83% and 91% of students were proficient in English and math, respectively.

What It Means: By raising the bar for all students, CCSS help ensure students of all backgrounds have the skills to reach and succeed at high levels of learning. In addition to the examples Brandt references, Arizona’s Osborne school district, in which more than 90% of the student body are minorities, became one of the state’s top-performing districts under CCSS. “”I tell people, you have to have standards,” said the district’s superintendent. “[CCSS] are meant to do just what the title says, prepare students for college and careers.”