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chalkbeat explains

Chalkbeat Explains

Common Core

The Common Core is a set of reading and math standards that New York State adopted in 2010, along with 45 other states and the District of Columbia.

The new standards are meant to address a persistent and confounding phenomenon: State test scores showed that most students were performing at grade level, but far fewer students entered college with the skills required to succeed there. State officials concluded that at least part of the problem is that they were not asking students to do challenging enough work.

The Common Core requires teachers to adjust their instruction and students to take on more challenging assignments. Unlike the state’s old standards, which emphasized what students should know, the Common Core focuses on skills students should develop, especially close textual analysis in reading and deep understanding of relatively few topics in math.

New York became the second state to test students (in grades 3-8) on the standards in 2013. Just as officials had warned, pass rates on the tougher tests plunged from the year before, from about 55 percent in reading and 65 percent in math in 2012 to 31 percent in each subject in 2013.

The tests and results drew criticism from parents, teachers, and, in some cases, students about the state’s rollout of the new standards. They charged that teachers had not gotten adequate time and support to change their instructional practices, and that the tests presented an unfair challenge to students. The criticism reached a peak in late 2013 when state education officials temporarily halted public forums about the Common Core because of protests.

The tension continues to simmer even as students and teachers move through their third year under the new standards and second year when the standards will be tested. The state will administer its first high school-level Common Core-aligned exams in 2014, the same year that New York City teachers’ evaluations will reflect test scores for the first time – January 2014

THE BOTTOM LINE FOR:

Members of the public will have to judge whether the common core standards represent the knowledge and skills they want students to learn in public school. What do they think about the emphasis on informational texts over classic literature? What about the approach to learning math? On a more basic level, they must decide whether a version of national standards is appropriate or beneficial to students at all.

KEY FACTS

  • New York City piloted the standards in 100 schools in 2010-11, extended them to all schools in 2011-12, and first assessed students in grades 3-8 on them in 2012-13.
  • Statewide, 31 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored "proficient" or better on Common Core aligned English tests in 2013, down from 55.1 percent on tests in 2012 that were not tied to the standards
  • In math, the pass rate sank to 31 percent on Common Core tests, down from 64.8 percent the year before.