October 3, 2013: There are several "what parents need to know about Common Core State Standards (CCSS)" lists on the 'net, but for clarity and brevity, we have revised and adapted Rick Hazeltine's version in the Thousand Oaks Acorn:
1. What exactly is Common Core State Standards?
... a set of basics developed by 48 states -- not the federal government -- that determines what children should know at each grade level and when they graduate from high school. In the past, every state had its own standards, meaning a high math score in one state could be middling score in a state with lower standards. This may have been inconsequential in the past, when individual mobility and geographic relocation were less common; today, employment and educational opportunities often require significant movement around the country and around the world. The CCSS is aligned to international standards of basic knowledge and skills, as well as unifying the states in common agreement. (Four states have not adopted the standards: Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska; Minnesota has adopted only the English Language Arts component.)
2. When will CCSS show up in my child’s classroom?
It probably already has. This school year, it’s up to individual districts as to how much of the CCSS is incorporated into the classroom. But all districts in California are required to have CCSS fully implemented by the 2014-15 school year.
3. How will CCSS affect test scores?
Be prepared: It’s not going to be pretty. New York and Kentucky got a jump on the rest of the nation and implemented tests that were aligned to the CCSS in 2013. Both states saw the number of students rating proficient or better in math and language arts drop significantly. Only 30% of students reached proficiency in New York. In Kentucky, the number of proficient or better dropped by a third. It’s not likely to be much different in California, but school officials say the drop is to be expected considering the significant changes to curriculum, and that it’s impossible to compare results of the new testing with previous Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) testing. There will be no more multiple-choice, bubble test answer sheets.
4. What grades will be tested under CCSS?
CCSS assessments will begin in 3rd grade, will continue through 8th grade, and then will be given in one year in high school, most likely 11th grade.
5. How will my child’s test scores under CCSS impact his or her ability to take honors or Advanced Placement classes in high school?
Measurements gathered from STAR test results, used by some high schools to determine determine eligibility for honors and AP classes, won't be available. Schools will have to decide AP eligibility on such criteria as grade-point averages and teacher recommendations (until the CCSS testing is up and running and students have a chance to adapt to the changes). However, the CCSS will affect all national tests: AP tests, the Scholastic Aptitue Test, etc.: all will now emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills, for example.
6. What subject areas are included in CCSS and how will they be different than past curriculum?
CCSS now has two main components: Mathematics and English Language Arts. There are separate plans to eventually have a science component and an arts component. The changes in the curriculum are significant.
*Students will read more complex fiction and nonfiction in English Language Arts. The emphasis will shift to far more informational (nonfiction) than literary. The reason: once students reach college or the workplace, they are required to read predominantly informational-based material. Up to now, as little as 15% of elementary reading in California schools was informational. Now, reading will be evenly split between literary and informational in elementary school, will be 60% informational in middle school and 75% informational in high school. In middle and high school students will be expected to apply literary skills to math, science, social science and technical subjects -- learning to read and write well in all subjects and disciplines. Read California's Common Core Reading List here.
* In Mathematics, the focus will shift from memorization of concepts to using them to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. What to see what a test will look like? Check the Practice Test out here. (Click on the green square icon at the bottom of the page. The sign-in is already filled for “guest,” so just click the Sign In button on the lower right. Now, select the grade level from the drop-down menu at lower left, then click the Yes button to get to Your Tests. You can now sample the questions.)
7. Will CCSS mean that the country will have a national curriculum with teachers teaching the same programs across the nation?
No. CCSS dictates what students should know and when, but not how the states teach the curriculum.
8. Why are we making these drastic changes?
American students are not graduating from high school prepared for college and/or the workplace, in their communities, their states, and the world. We are 17th among the 40 developed nations in education -- thirty years ago, we were first.
9. Are there differences between the national CCSS and the standards California will use?
Yes. Our state Department of Education adopted the CCSS and then added : Grades 2-4: formal presentations and penmanship. Grades 2-5: Probability, statistics and algebraic thinking.
10. How has the state prepared for the implementation of CCSS?
California has budgeted $1.25 billion to help schools get CCSS in place. Most of the money will go toward teacher preparation and technology. CCSS testing is done on computers or other electronic devices, such as iPads.