ncu-higher-degrees-spring-2014

8 Questions
You’ve Been Dying to Ask about Common Core

Written by Kara Hawking

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is dominating the national conversation about education. Frequently referred to as Common Core, this set of standards for achievement in the classroom claims to be a huge step forward for K-12 education.

In an effort to help parents, teachers and administrators gain the knowledge they need to help make Common Core successful, Higher Degrees caught up with Dr. Casey Reason. A NCU faculty member with K-12 education experience as a principal and assistant superintendent, Dr. Reason has worked closely with School of Education Dean, Dr. Cindy Guillaume, on the development of two Common Core focused certificate programs – Mathematics Excellence in the Common Core and English Language Arts Excellence in the Common Core.

HD:

Will the Common Core dictate exactly what will be taught in the classroom? In other words, will the curriculum be completely different than before?

CR:

The short answer is yes. The Common Core standards are very specific about not only what goals and objectives are to be achieved, but also about the pathway by which to get there. In fact, the Common Core was designed based on research over the last twenty years regarding best practices in instruction.

HD:

I'm a parent – how will the Common Core change the homework I see coming home with my child?

CR:

Assigned homework will definitely be different. For example, in a recent discussion I had with a parent, we identified that as a child she (the parent) would bring home math homework that was worksheet based and graded solely for correct answers. However, her child is being challenged to demonstrate how they think about math and their problem solving process while working on a particular math problem.

Parents should remember that Common Core is a completely different way of approaching teaching, so it may be perplexing simply because it is different from what they experienced themselves.

HD:

Are these standards considered harder or easier than previous standards?

CR:

In most cases, these standards represent an accelerated challenge for students. However, this will not eliminate the need to provide additional learning opportunities for children who are particularly strong or weak in a specific subject area.

HD:

How will Common Core impact my gifted student?

CR:

In many respects, gifted students will be deeply enriched by Common Core curriculum. The new focus is on the thinking systems associated with each content area rather than focusing on just coming up with the right answers, which has probably always been easy for gifted students. Helping all students understand how they think, however, is an important component of Common Core and is a skill that is helpful for gifted and regular students alike.

HD:

How will Common Core impact my student with special needs?

CR:

The impact on special needs students won’t be too dramatic. These students will simply need extra levels of support to perform at standard. The idea is that if we change the standards, we simply change the level of support we need to provide.

HD:

I'm a parent moving from a state that has not adopted Common Core standards to a state that has already been following the standards for a couple of years. What can I expect for my children?

CR:

Right now, you can expect an accelerated challenge for your children. However, this question lies at the root of why Common Core was developed in the first place. Historically, students have moved from district to district, or state to state and found that the standards are very different. The hope is that with the Common Core the differences will be minimized as most states establish an agreed upon standards by grade level.

HD:

I'm an administrator – how can I be sure that the teachers in my school and/or district are adequately prepared for this transition?

CR:

Administrators perhaps will struggle more than almost anybody with this transition. In general, evaluating teachers is very difficult and now with this heightened sense of awareness about instructional expectations, principals will need to take it upon themselves to develop an acute notion of how these standards are taught at each level and how to measure for it. This will be an interesting challenge that has not yet been resolved.

HD:

I'm an administrator – how can I prepare my teachers to deal with the questions they'll receive from concerned parents?

CR:

The most important thing for educators and administrators is to remain informed regarding the Common Core. Provide your teachers with the new information coming out regarding the Common Core and encourage them to use this information to become prepared for conversations with parents. Resources are limited, but seeking information from your state-specific web page dedicated to communications about the new standards might be a good place to start.

Administrators might also consider forming a team of educators who are devoted to implementing and troubleshooting issues with the Common Core. These teachers may benefit from participating in Northcentral’s certificate program to provide them with the background and context they need to be effective.