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COLUMN: Editorial on Common Core State Standards was light on facts

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By AMY ETIENNE
Guest Columnist

It is time for a revolution in American education.  Schools are no longer responsible for only teaching children reading, writing and arithmetic.  We must now teach children to think deeply and critically about all of the information that comes so easily to them through multi-faceted media.  

Possibly, this was lacking in the education of the author of the editorial on Monday, Nov. 14, 2013 in the Perry County News. The editorial was based on a Facebook post, the research of a 15-year old tech savvy student in Colorado and an AlterNet article.

Critical thinkers base their evidence on sound research and facts.

Robert Marzano, a leading researcher in the field of education, outlines the history of the Common Core State Standards in Chapter 1 of Using Common Core Standards to Enhance Classroom Instruction & Assessment (2013).

National standards in education have been in place since 1989.  Both political parties have promoted the development and implementation of national standards through legislation and grants.

National standards have been refined through research and development involving many experts from the fields of assessment, curriculum design, cognitive development, child development, business and higher education.

The Common Core State Standards have made careful use of a large and growing body of evidence.  The evidence base includes scholarly research; surveys on what skills are required of students entering college and workforce training programs; assessment data identifying college and career-ready performance and comparisons to standards from high-performing states and nations (www.corestandards.org).

At the state level adoption of the Common Core State Standards is voluntary, although encouraged by the federal government.  States are required by federal law to have college- and career-ready standards.  Standards development is a time-consuming and expensive task encumbered by each state.

The decision to adopt the Common Core State Standards or not is made by the state school board or the state legislature.  

Across the nation most school districts agree that the Common Core State Standards is more rigorous and that they will improve their students’ skills (Kober & Rentner, 2011).

It is important to keep in mind that standards describe what teachers should be teaching.

The how, including designing effective lessons and implementing instructional strategies that meet the learning needs of students, represents the art and science of teaching.

In order to measure what students know and are able to do at each grade level, two consortia of states were assigned to develop a variety of assessments which are administered using technology and which include performance tasks that ask students to demonstrate a skill or create a product. They will be piloted this spring in many states and next year several states will fully administer the assessments.

Sample items from each consortia are available online at this time.  Some states have developed exams on their own which may or may not meet the rigor and requirements of the Common Core State Standards aligned assessments.

Where does Indiana fit into all of this? Indiana’s Academic Standards adopted in 2008 were some of the top standards in the nation.  However, they were often described as being a mile wide and an inch deep.

There were so many standards that teachers had to push through them quickly without slowing down to deepen students’ understanding of the content. Common Core State Standards, adopted by Indiana in 2010, changes that for Indiana.

The content is clustered together into units and scaffolded across grade levels so that students gain deep understanding and then apply that understanding.  

Students are pushed to understand why, to cite evidence,  to question the reasoning of others and to not just memorize facts.  This is all really about the students.  We want our students from Indiana to be able to compete in national and global colleges and careers.  

Etienne is Title I director at Crawford County Community Schools and lives in Magnet.