In response to Sarah Kleinfelter's recent call for more information about the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), here are a few key facts:
First, it was the National Governors' Association - not the federal government - that led the push for a set of national K-12 standards in English language arts and math. Forty-five states, four territories, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense have voluntarily adopted the CCSS since they were published in 2010.
The standards are, and should be, a very public document. Teachers, researchers and leading experts collaborated with community members and policy makers from across the country to develop standards that were internationally benchmarked for rigor and relevance. Several national organizations, including the National PTA, have wonderful resources that provide useful information and practical ways parents can help their children achieve the new learning objectives.
Critical thinking skills are at the heart of both the language arts and math standards. For example, one of the Standards of Mathematical Practice is to "construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others." Second-graders will "build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others." Far from holding our kids back, this new emphasis will enable our students to acquire complex 21st century skills much earlier in their educational careers.
The standards do not dictate individual high school courses, but leave those decisions to states and local districts. In fact, beginning with the class of 2014, students in Ohio will be required to take Algebra II in order to graduate. That will be a minimum requirement for students, not, as suggested, a maximum limit.
As a curriculum director, a significant part of my job is to coordinate work outlined in my district's Race to the Top grant. These grant funds support extensive teacher in-service and release time for teachers to collaborate, both of which are critical to high-quality instruction and successful implementation of all standards, including Ohio's Revised Standards in Social Studies and Science.
I encourage you to check out corestandards.org to get a better understanding of the CCSS and their potential for helping students be better prepared for life after high school. Better yet, call your local school district and find out how they're working with the standards and how you can help.