The Official Blog of the Youth Transition Funders Group

Hosted by Chris Sturgis, Strategic Advisor to YTFG

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Common Core is Around the Corner

Hopefully everyone in the youth field knows about the Common Core State Standards by now.  Most states (a few have decided not to join the national effort) have planning task forces and some are actually starting implementation.

The question we need to dig into quickly is what does the Common Core mean for our most vulnerable youth?

Let's look at some of the opportunities:
  •  The Common Core is supposed to have a much stronger emphasis on the application of knowledge and skills.  This is good news for schools with project-based and real-world learning.
  •  The mathematics offers two different "paths". One is the traditional path to calculus. The other is an emphasis on statistics. This is great news as statistics is a great skill for anyone in the workplace.  However, if you have a student that is really intent on going onto a career that requires graduate school in any of the sciences make sure to keep them in the calculus path if you can.  It's a big gate they will have to cross along the way. 
  • The Common Core could be a door to more competency-based learning.  Keep the focus on the skills rather than the time it takes to learn them. New Hampshire, a leader in competency-based, has opened the door for students to build their competencies in real-world experiences and expanded learning time.  
  • Standardization of skills is just good news for any students that have high mobility.  It's good news as well for providers working in different states. And for professional development in our field.  
Now the challenges:
  •  Obviously all the system alignment advocates hope that the education system falls into line and no student will ever be behind again.  Those of us that believe that patterns of inequity will continue to undermine the good intentions of Common Core need to be ready to push for interventions and extra help to go along with the new standards.
  • It looks to me that some of the high school level English Language Arts may actually be requiring more skills than many teachers have that are serving the most vulnerable students. This is not a criticism of them necessarily as they were taught themselves in a system with lower expectations.  However, we may need to look for other ways to make sure our students really know how to write at the college-level.
  • There are already plans for the GED to be upgraded again.  But our students are taught in a myriad of places -- huge comprehensive high schools, alternative schools, increasingly virtual schools some of which are not much more than automated worksheets from what I hear,  disciplinary schools, juvenile justice facilities and adult education.  We know this is the "black hole of education" -- so who can organize a meaningful upgrade across all of schools and programs.
As we move forward, we are going to learn about a lot more opportunities and challenges. We'd love to hear from you about what you are seeing on the ground. 

For those of you who want to know more about the Common Core State Standards Initiative:

  • The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative is a state-led process to develop a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12.  The goal is to provide a clear, consistent understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers.
  • There are efforts to build tools to support implementation. One example, is  EdSteps that has examples of student work that are aligned with the Common Core at every grade level.  If you have found a really helpful resource please share it with the rest of us!

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