WARRENTON — When a student goes to work or college, they’re expected to know certain things and perform certain functions. One difficulty for colleges, technical schools and the workforce, though, is that academic expectations of students have always been different from state to state.
Art Anderson, director of instruction and school improvement for the Northwest Regional Education Service District, stopped by the Warrenton-Hammond School District Monday to talk with the school board about Common Core State Standards.
This is a new and continuing effort by states to align their measurements of academic proficiency.
The effort to create nationwide standards, started in 2010, is jointly being driven by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Teachers, school administrators and other educational experts had a part in creating the standards to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare children for college, technical education and the workforce.
There are hundreds of new standardized measurements in every subject and at every grade level of what students should be expected to learn and what they should be able to perform at certain points in their academic careers. Anderson stressed that these standards aren’t trying to dictate to teachers how they should teach, but rather giving them expectations of what their students should be able to do by a certain grade level.
The standards have been adopted by 45 states so far, the Oregon State Board of Education officially accepting them in October 2010.
With the new national standards, there are more than 2,151 for all subjects – including new standards in science, technology and social sciences – and grades compared to nearly 1,891 under the previous Oregon-specific standards.
“Any way you slice this, it’s increased the total number of standards that teachers have to take care of,” said Anderson, adding that teachers will prioritize the standards, spending more time on some and less on others.
“Publishers will now align their textbooks with common core standards,” he said about textbook companies that instead of basing their materials on the needs of more populated states will now start to base them around a national set of standards.
He added that these standards are also meant to be on par with other developed countries, readying American students to take part in the global economy.
“When you start talking about standards, forget about grades,” said Anderson, adding that proficiency in a certain task will be the primary measurement of a student’s success using these standards. By sixth grade, for instance, a student will be expected to read and comprehend literature at a sixth- to eighth-grade level or solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area and volume in geometry.
That doesn’t mean grades are going away. Warrenton Superintendent Mark Jeffery said that any change from the traditional grading system would have to start in college and work its way down.
Jeffery said there’s a special focus with the standards on third-graders, because that’s when students transition from learning to read from reading to learn. He added that there have been studies showing that students who are on track by third-grade are significantly more likely to graduate.
“It will be a much more demanding kindergarten curriculum for our students,” said Jeffery about how standards will keep pushing down, causing students to learn concepts earlier and earlier.
He said his district is trying to break down walls and get teachers to work more collaboratively in helping their students reach these standards. Anderson said the big push now is getting teachers to start teaching to these new standards, abandoning the old Oregon-specific iterations.
First-graders, said Jeffery, will be the district’s first students to graduate using these new common core standards as a template.
To learn more about the standards, visit www.core standards.org
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.