The Common Core is a series of tough new learning standards that are being implemented in 45 states, including Oregon. State officials hope that students in first grade now — like Ava, Josh, Octavio, Ashley, Raiden— will achieve a 100 percent high school graduation rate.
To get them there, teachers will be adhering to the new standards, which emphasize “big ideas,” including analysis, critical thinking and problem solving.
By the end of first grade, for example, the kids of the class of 2025 are expected to hit a number of benchmarks, including:
- Asking and answering questions about text, determining the key message or lesson in a story and identifying the main topic.
- Explaining the value of each digit in a two-digit number (for example: 23 represents two 10s and three ones).
- Using a “scientific inquiry” process to post questions and investigate the natural world.
- Reading grade level prose, poetry, books and informational text.
A new series of tests aimed at measuring how much kids have learned under Common Core will have less multiple choice and depend a lot more on students’ ability to explain their ideas in writing.
Oregon’s Deputy Superintendent of Education, Rob Saxton, has championed the Common Core standards, saying they are needed to prepare kids for life after high school.
“Really and truly, the worst thing that we could do would be to say to parents, students and our community, ‘hey, you’re on track, to be successful when you go to college, or go to community college or in the work force’- and then have them go there, and find out they’re not,” Saxton said.
But teachers, including members of Oregon’s largest union, are already warning that parents should prepare themselves for passing rates to plummet dramatically as the new tests are phased in. It may be an even higher mountain to climb for students who speak English as a second language, or for students with learning or behavioral disabilities.
“It may be a better way to get kids prepared for a test, but if the context of schooling does not change for those students, we will see, I think, even wider gaps, because the Common Core standards are quite demanding,” said Prudence Carter, a professor of education at Stanford University.
Carter says that under the new standards, just knowing the subject matter at hand won’t be enough to be a successful teacher.
“If you don’t know how to understand your kids, and relate to the students in your class who are different from you, then you may very well be challenged,” she said.