Following three years of implementation, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will take full effect in Tennessee next year when new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) Assessments for math and English are given to students in grades 3 – 11, replacing the TCAP tests in those subjects. Many parents still know very little about the Common Core details. Here, we aim to bring you up-to-speed, however dense!
English Language Arts
For K – 5 students, the CCSS for English Language Arts (ELA) are integrated into reading lessons. For grades 6 and higher, they are integrated into history/social studies, science and technical subjects. The standards are “intended to be a living work,” so they will be revised as needed.
The three main changes in CCSS for English/Language Arts:
- Grounding reading and writing in evidence. Students are required to support what they’re writing about and will answer more text-dependent questions.
- More regular practice with complex text and vocabulary. Teachers will collaborate on lesson plans to make this happen.
- Building knowledge through nonfiction and informational text. Students will continue reading fiction and novels, but there will be an increased emphasis on reading nonfiction and informational text.
What This Means …
The CCSS guiding documents lay out the balance of fiction to nonfiction text, and suggest the use of 50 percent informational text/50 percent fiction in the elementary school years. This percentage increases to 70 percent informational text/30 percent fiction for students by high school. The reasoning behind this is because college students and individuals in careers are more likely to work with informational texts in the workplace.
Children are no longer asked to summarize the plot and pick out the main characters. Starting in elementary grades, students are asked to analyze and talk about what’s going on in any given “informational text,” or story, and to use examples from the text to figure out why the people or characters do what they do. Second graders are asked, for instance, to identify what characters want and how the characters respond to challenges that occur in the text — introducing them to the idea that all stories include people or characters who want something and obstacles that they must overcome to get what they want. Second graders will look at the overall structure of a story, and differences in the characters’ points of view, and going forward, subsequent grades will build on this in a stair-step fashion, adding to in-depth analysis through the years.
The CCSS for mathematics move across grade levels at a higher level of rigor each year, so by the time students are ready to exit, they have better knowledge of subject.
The three main changes in CCSS for Math:
- Narrowed focus. Students will delve more deeply into concepts emphasized in the standards.
- More coherence. Students will link major topics throughout grades.
- More rigor. Rigor is defined as conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency and application.
What This Means …
The CCSS guiding documents focus so that students can apply a concept from five different directions: manipulative tools, real life situations, pictures/graphs, oral/written language and written symbols. Parents will see progression from grade to grade, with topics in one grade linked to topics the next grade up. Math is now tied to the definition of “Rigor,” which is split into three topics: 1.) Conceptual understanding: The idea of understanding why a particular math problem works the way it does. For instance, kids may know their times tables but they don’t necessarily “get” that multiplication is simply an easier way to add a bunch of numbers together; 2) Procedural skill and fluency: Kids still need to know their times tables and the difference between even and odd numbers, prime numbers, etc.; 3) Application: This brings the two first ideas together in and out of the classroom.
No matter what grade your child is in or what you’re studying, all students will need to make sense of problems and persevere to solve them, reason abstractly and quantitatively; build arguments to critique others; model with mathematics and objects; use tools strategically; be precise; look for structure and use it; look for reasoning and use it. Students will take algebra in middle school and precalculus in high school.
Will the Common Core
impact homeschoolers and private schools?
Currently the Common Core applies only to public schools in the 45 states that adopted it. Federal law prohibits any federal education mandates from applying to private schools that do not receive federal funds or homeschools. There is no protection for children in programs tied to federal funding (those using virtual charter schools run through a public school, for example). The current impact of the Common Core on home and private education is through the expanding state longitudinal databases, shifting college admissions expectations, updated curricula aligned to the Common Core and revised standardized tests (David Coleman, chief architect of the CCSS is now president of the College Board. He has announced that the SAT will be redesigned to fully implement the Common Core).
So is This a National
“To make standards meaningful, they have to be integrated with changes in curriculum, assessment and pedagogy.”
— Jay P. Greene, professor of education
reform at the University of Arkansas
Proponents of the Common Core say no. But the consortia (PARCC and SBAC — Tennessee is a member of PARCC) receiving millions from the federal government to write standardized assessments are also being paid to produce curriculum guides for their member states. In an effort funded by the Gates Foundation, the states of New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Colorado are creating an open-source “platform” that will allow teachers to download and share resources aligned to the Common Core. The platform will be available to all states in 2014, according to Realizing the Potential: How Governors Can Lead Effective Implementation of the Common Core States, an assessment in the “Common Core Simple Implementation Guide” prepared for the National Governor’s Association. Those who support the Common Core recognize that standards are intended to mold curriculum.
All 50 state have had statewide longitudinal databases in place to track student scores on assessments for the past decade. Yet the success of the Common Core standards hinges on the increased collection of deeper student data. While the Common Core website asserts that “There are no data collection requirements of states adopting the Common Core standards,” the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, summarized the vision, explaining:
“We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college then link school data to workforce data. We want to know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult.”
Data collected for the Common Core includes homework grades, extracurricular activities, future career path info, socioeconomic background, personal goals and emotions during homework assignments.
The Gates Foundation is collaborating with researchers to explore methods of “how specific brain activity is correlated with other cognitive and affective indicators that are practical to measure in school settings,” according to Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: Cricital Factors for Success in the 21st Century,” a document put forth by the U.S. Department of Education in February 2013.
Where’s the Data
In hopes of harnessing all of the student data coming out of the Common Core public schools, a massive $100 million database was built in 18 months by a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. called Amplify Education. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation provided the bulk of the funding. The database was turned over to a newly created nonprofit, inBloom, Inc. which is running it. States and school districts can choose whether they want to input student records into the system. So far, seven states are in: Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina and Massachusetts. Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest,” according to the Department of Education.
Common Core Questions Abound …
FERPA’S Changed … Is My Child’s Info Safe?
In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Education unilaterally altered FERPA (the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act governing what student records schools can share) so that any government or private entity that the department says is evaluating an education program can gain access to a student’s personally identifiable information without notifying the parent(s). The new FERPA document outlines 11 different ways personally identifiable information can be shared by schools without parent or student consent.
Per the FERPA revision, information collected on students can be shared with third parties such as education product companies.
What is the P20 Council?
It’s the organization dedicated to the collection of educational data as prescribed by the current administration through the expansion of the current State Longitudinal Data System. P20 stands for pre-K to 20 years of age. Every state in the union has a similar council.
Attend the Hearing
In response to growing concerns in the community about the implementation of the Common Core in Tennessee, the Tennessee Senate Standing Committed on Education will hear and review facts regarding the Common Core Standards.
Senator Dolores Gresham, chair, and the committee will hear both critics and proponents of the Common Core. The hearing is open to the public.
Thursday, Sept. 19 at 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20 at 9 a.m.
301 6th Ave. N, Room 12
Sourcing for this article comes from the Home School Legal Defense Association, a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms.