I kicked off the 3-day weekend (Thank you, Veterans!) with a cup of coffee and the September 30 edition of Time Magazine. It was the cover story on Google that prompted me to purchase a copy, but while flipping backwards through the pages, I found Amanda Ripley’s article The New Smart Set – What happens when millions of kids are asked to master fewer things more deeply?
Between background on how the Common Core Standards were created (Sorry, Tea Party goers, but “the federal government had nothing to do with their creation; sorry, “leftist critics,” but the CCSS were “developed by teachers and researchers at the behest of a bipartisan group of governors and state education leaders,” not by “corporate reforms.”) and Kentucky’s pioneering process and results, I highly recommend this article for educators, parents, and politicians.
From my 20+ years as an educator, I’m a firm believer that any new program needs 3 years of implementation before its value can truly be assessed and judged. Such is the case with Kentucky’s roll out of the Common Core. Year 1 (2010) was met with a normal amount of concern, fear, and frustration over standards that were intended to take students deeper into English Language Arts and Math than previous state standards. As they headed into the first round of testing synced to the Common Core, state officials communicated to parents, teachers, and students that “if you raise the bar, fewer will reach it – at least for a while.” Teachers had flyers to share with parents and PTAs provided briefings. Clearly, the communication piece was seen as central to the shift to Common Core.
And the results … drum roll please … In Year 2, the second year of testing, “Student scores rose 2 percentage points, with the portion of college and career-ready students up 20 percent to 54 percent since 2010. The graduation rate has increased to 86 percent from 80 percent in 2010 since the adoption of the standards” (from the Council of Chief State School Officials). The overall rise in test scores from Year 1 to Year 2 might seem small, but thanks to a little mentoring from University of California at Davis professor and researcher Carl Whithaus, I know that a 2% statewide gain is significant.
As my school district heads into CCSS field testing, with a bit of apprehension over the technology integration (both for the infrastructure and the devices students will use for the testing), I know I will continue to check back to Kentucky’s Department of Education site to keep up with their Friday Fast Five.
Thank you, Kentucky, for being the first to dive into the Common Core challenge and for sharing your lessons learned.