Tahlequah Daily Press

June 28, 2013

Officials: Common Core standards raise bar

The new educational goals are set to go into effect in 2014.

By JEAN HAVENS
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — New educational standards for publics schools are adopted every few years, as needed. The latest standards being implemented are the Common Core State Standards.

According to Levi Patrick, director of secondary education for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the math and English standards were adopted in 2010 and go into effect for school year 2014-’15.

“Basically, standards say that by the end of a school year, students will have specific knowledge of subject material,” said Sherry Fair, executive director of communications of OSDE.

These standards have been adopted by 44 states in the U.S. They were developed by the Common Core Writing Committee, a group of educators from across the nation.

“The Common Core Standards expectations are for students to be able to read and analyze material on a variety of subjects, and be able to answer questions utilizing the critical thinking skills that they have been developing throughout the school year,” said Patrick.

According to Fair, the current standards in use, the PASS Skills, cover a number of different topics, but these topics merely touch on specifics.

“Now the topics are narrower, but deeper,” said Fair. “There are less topics which go more in-depth on specific topics. This is to develop critical-thinking skills.”

These critical-- thinking skills focus on deep thinking, conceptual understanding and real-world problem-solving skills, according to the OSDE website.

Common Core sets expectations for students to be college, career and citizenship ready as well as incorporate literacy in science, social studies and technical subjects.

It prioritizes mathematical practices such as perseverance, reasoning and modeling and emphasizes the use of examples from texts when students create opinions and arguments.

Teachers have a number of approaches they can use to meet these standards.

“The standard is just what the teacher tries to cover,” he said.

Fair said how the standards are accomplished in the classroom is up to the district and teacher.

End-of-Year Instruction (EOI) tests will encompass the Common Core Standards.

“Currently, we have new standards, and there are new efforts to design new testing,” said Patrick.

The 2014-’15 tests will have more than the usual multiple choice that has been the tradition in school testing. It also will have innovative characteristics such as fill-in-the-blank and short answers, according to Patrick.

The assessment chosen for Oklahoma schools is Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Patrick said this testing method would be designed to measure in line with Common Core.

“Utilizing PARCC assessment is similar to Advanced Placement testing,” said Patrick.

“Students make a choice in their readings and defend their choices. There will be new ways to answer some questions, such as multiple select, which gives the student the opportunity to choose a number of correct answers.”

Part of the test will be machine scored, which give schools test results immediately. For short answer portions of the test, they will be hand scored.

According to Patrick, English will involve some short answers dealing with science and social studies topics.

“Math will have a little more reading than in the past, but in math you must utilize accurate mathematics,” Patrick said. “In both English and math, students must give arguments why they chose the answers they chose.”

EOI testing areas will remain the same for high school students, with the addition of an English I test.

There will be eight EOI tests for high school, instead of seven, but, according to Patrick, students will still be required to pass four tests for graduation. Students must pass Algebra I and English II in addition to two more out of the required Algebra II, Geometry, English I and III, U.S. History and Biology I.

“The standards for all other courses will remain as they are, or are currently undergoing changes,” Patrick said.

As for classroom focus, Patrick said that it is up to each instructor as to how Common Core standards are best taught and met.

“It is the decision of local school districts and teachers to choose what’s best for their students each day of the year,” said Patrick. “It’s the teacher who is responsible in choosing the textbook and resources to teach the students.”

Patrick believes Common Core Standards will be positive for local communities. The standards help if a state or community is trying to attract new businesses, because the standards are on par with the rest of the nation.

For more information about the Common Core Standards, go to the department of education website: ok.gov/sde/oklahoma-c3-standards.