In a little over a year, Fargo Public Schools and other school districts in North Dakota will be moving to the Common Core Standards. The Standards are part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a nationwide, state-led effort to unify the academic standards that all U.S. high school graduates will meet. Its participants comprise state governors, state superintendents, K-12 educators, advisors and administrators from all across the United States.
The Common Core Standards encompass math and English language arts, which also comprises literacy in social studies, science, and technical subjects. They are built on the strengths of the best current educational standards of all states/representatives involved in the process.
So, what have we been using up until now? Why the change? What is the benefit?
To date, school districts across the country – including the District – have been using a set of curriculum standards created and required by their state education department. (Some, like Fargo, have expanded on the state standards to increase their rigor.) In effect, this means that what U.S. students are expected to learn over 13 years of education can vary widely from state to state. Moving to the Common Core Standards will unify the standards of all participating states and their school districts.
Will there be a visible difference in what children learn going forward?
Yes. For example, if the rigor of math standards are increased, one might see math concepts formerly introduced in the fifth grade be introduced in the fourth. In English language arts, there might be a shift in the things that students read and write about, or the types of research that they conduct.
How and when will we implement this?
The changes will not only find their way into our curriculum, but more importantly, become integrated into the Professional Learning Community (PLC) environment. PLCs comprise groups of educators; they collaborate for the purpose of answering four questions: (1) What do we want students to learn? (2) How will we know if they have learned it? (3) How do we respond when they don’t learn? And, (4) how do we respond when they already know it?
The administration, led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Robert Grosz, is exploring the path to completing the Standards with other North Dakota school districts. Much of the foundation for that path involves curriculum writing projects, the development of assessment item banks (groups), and the planning of professional development opportunities. The North Dakota rollout for the Standards is July 1, 2013.
How is the federal government involved in all of this?
It isn’t, with the exception of providing funding for state departments of education to assist them in the move to the Common Core Standards.
How many states are involved in the CCSSI?
To date, 45 of the 50 states have committed to the Common Core Standards. (Those members of the Initiative have set a target for a nationwide assessment in 2015.)
Want more information? There are several resources online that simplify further explanation of the Common Core Standards, including the CCSSI website, Wikipedia, and YouTube videos by the Hunt Institute.