The Common Core State Standards are standards finalized in 2010 that detail what K- 12 students all through the United States should know in Mathematics and English Language Arts after each school grade. They give a structure that is planned to guarantee that all students who move on from secondary school in the United States have acquired the information and skills that appropriately set them up for college and their future professions. Utilization of the Common Core Standards is likewise expected to improve the probability that the U.S. education framework will graduate students who meet universal benchmarks of high-performance levels.
The Common Core Standards initiative signifies the first endeavor to make consistency in the knowledge and abilities that students should acquire in K- 12, founded on a common definition of what it is supposed to be for a student to be college and career ready (Rothman, 2011). This initiative is relied upon to add to the nature of education in various ways; specifically, it is expected to empower students to improve their level of critical thinking and their capacity to transfer information and knowledge from multiple settings as well as enabling teachers in offering more relevant and engaging instructions (Hirsh, 2012). Further, it will have the benefit of advancing cross-state consistency as far as what students should know and have the capacity to do upon graduating from high school.
Before the creation of the Common Core State Standards, various studies had established that colleges and employers were demanding more of high school students, a trend that was on the rise with every passing year. However, the exit expectations of high school graduates were falling short of the college and employer demands. The problem thus facing the United States education system was that high school students were not acquiring the knowledge and skills required to succeed in college and their future professions. Additionally, although students and their parents believed that a high school diploma meant adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of college and career life, in reality, high school diplomas fell short of this common notion (Sawchuk, 2011). Thus as the high school diploma had lost its value as high school graduates were not competitively successful beyond high school, there was a need to develop a solution to the problem through the establishment of a common set of rigorous standards.
The Common Core Standards were an initiative led by the council of chief state officers and the national governor association. The major objective of the initiative was the creation of a set of standards in Mathematics and English that were fewer, clearer and higher than the previously developed and existing standards and that would be consistent across the whole country (Bleiberg & West, 2014). The creators of the standards were of the opinion that fewer essential standards would facilitate a greater depth of understanding among K-12 students; that the set standards should be higher than the previous standards present in the majority of the states; that they should provide a high level of clarity to assist the teachers in utilizing them effectively; and that they should be math and exceed international standards.
In developing the Common Core State Standards, the creators were guided by various principles. The creators commenced by establishing a clear definition of college readiness that would serve as the foundation for the entire education system. The sources that enabled the formation of such a definition included research by various institutions such as the ACT Inc., information from faculty teaching first-year college courses, and reviews of introductory college textbooks (Rothman, 2011). The college readiness definition thus played a significant part in setting up standards that closed any gap that existed between college entry requirements and high school graduation requirements. Additionally, the standards' developers followed the example of other organizations such as Archive Inc. and ACT Inc. by establishing that a substantive difference does not exist between career readiness and college readiness.
The creators were also guided by the concern that critical analysis and depth in the current education system were being forfeited due to the vast amounts of material teachers had to cover. Thus, they worked on the assumption that college and career readiness would best be accomplished by providing students with various opportunities to engage with challenging texts and solve problems in diverse ways hence utilizing the type of skills generally expected of college students. Through the use of the above guiding principles, the developers and supporters of the Common Core Standards expected the standards would lead to a consistent and clearer understanding by the students, parents and the public of what student should know and are capable of upon graduating from high school, more centered professional growth teachers, opportunities to share best practices across the entire country, the use of common and multiple Common Core Standards aligned assessments and the development of learning materials and textbooks aligned to a common set of standards (Common Core State Standards Initiative, n.d.).
As earlier stated, the Common Core State Standards only cover English Language Arts and Mathematics. The major goal of the English Language Arts and Literacy in social science, history, science, and technical subjects is to make sure that high school students are college and career ready in literacy no later than graduation from high school. The five chief elements in the standards for English and Language Arts Literacy include reading, writing, listening and speaking, language, and technology and media. As students progress through the various grades, the level of complexity as to what the students are expected to read increases as well as a progressive improvement of reading comprehension enabling students to gain more from what they read. Thus, states, school districts, and teachers are expected to decide on the appropriate curriculum through the guidance of sample texts provided to assist students, teachers, and parents in preparing for the subsequent year. Additionally, the Common Core Standards determines critical content for all students such as classic myths, foundational United States documents and Shakespeare's writing; however, the rest is determined by the states and school districts (Barnett & Fay, 2013).
The writing standards are focused on claims-based logical argument, relevant evidence, and logical arguments. Projects that students are likely to encounter in their college and career lives such as short research centered projects and in-depth long term research are also included in the writing standards. Such types of analysis and significant results presentation types of writings are critical for career and college readiness. In addition to reading and writing, the Common Core Standards emphasize academic discussions in whole class, small groups and one on one class settings. Such academic discussions enable the students to acquire, evaluate and present complex information, evidence and ideas through speaking and listening (Rothman, 2011).
Additionally, academic discussions coupled with direct instruction and reading facilitates vocabulary instruction in the standards. They enable students to determine the meanings of various words thus expand their use of words and phrases. Furthermore, the standards expect that learners employ formal English in their speaking and writing and also be aware that colleges and careers require students to make skilled and wise decisions on how to express themselves in various contexts through language (Barnett & Fay, 2013). In the 21st century, technology and media are intertwined with the students' lives. As such, the standards include skills related to the production and analysis of various forms of media accessible to the high school student. Such skills include instructions in keyboarding without much emphasis on cursive handwriting.
Thus, the general changes made to the previous English Language Arts standards through the development and adoption of the Common Core Standards required that the students work with more complex texts that have a higher reading level. Such books, essays, poems, and other complex texts posses more levels of meaning thus need more background knowledge to comprehend. Also, such complex texts employ academic or formal language typically found in classic literature, business reports, and historical documents. Subsequently, the English Language Arts Common Core Standards require that students utilize evidence in their arguments, speech, and writings, contrary to previous standards that saw students write papers based on personal experiences. Ultimately, the Common Core Standards placed a bigger emphasis on nonfiction texts to develop the students' knowledge of the world (Sawchuk, 2011).
In regards to Mathematics, the goal of the Mathematics standards is to achieve more coherence and focus in the curriculum. This objective was in response to the negative criticism that the United States Mathematics curriculum is too extensive and lacks depth (Common Core State Standards Initiative, n.d). The Common Core Standards thus mandate certain principles of mathematical practice be included in the curriculum. These include making sense of problems and persistence in obtaining solutions, abstract and quantitative reasoning, constructing viable arguments and evaluating the reasoning of others, mathematical modeling, strategic use of appropriate tools, focusing on precision, looking for and making use of structure, and looking for and expressing reliability in repeated reasoning. Although the above practices under the Common Core Standards are to be taught in every grade, the specifics of how the practices are to be linked between grade levels is left to the local execution of the standards. Additionally, the standards state the mathematical content that should be taught at each grade including the Mathematics to be taught in high school as well as presenting an overview of the critical areas to be taught in each grade. On the other hand, they do not dictate the order in which the content should be taught (Bleiberg & West, 2014).
Consequently, the Mathematics standards of the common core focus on fewer mathematical concepts with the expectations that the students will work more in-depth on those topics as compared to superficially working on many math topics. Additionally, the Mathematics standards in the Common Core ensure that the Mathematics concepts build on one another in that what a student learns in one grade is and must be applied in subsequent grades hence ensuring that the students have a global understanding of mathematics as a whole as opposed to just understanding individual topics. Also, the Mathematics standards guarantee that focus is shifted from knowing a standard way at arriving at a correct answer to requiring that students show an understanding of the concepts required to arrive at the right answer, that is, students are required to justify why an answer is the correct one (Sawchuk, 2011).
The common core state standards initiative is also employed in the assessment of students. Currently, the common core assessments are preferable to previous assessment systems (Bleiberg & West, 2014). The common core assessments are developed by two consortia, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The two consortia have each developed their own assessments where students will complete the common core tests on computers as opposed to the traditional paper-based tests. Through...
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