Although for the last 10 years teachers have stressed the CA State Standards and worked hard to prepare students for the CSTs (California Star Test), beginning informally since last year and formally in 2014-2015 there will be a shift in education. If you guessed the introduction to the Common Core Standards for English and Math, you guessed correctly. Although new standards have not been released for science and social studies, teachers of these subjects will incorporate more CCSS literary and writing standards into their curriculum. As a result students will increasing reflect on their reading. In addition, science and social studies’ teachers will include more primary sources, such as historical and scientific documents, into the curriculum to replace or supplement textbook and project based learning.
How do the CCS (Common Core Standards) differ from the CA State Standards? First, they align what students across the country learn at each grade level, but more importantly they shift the role of the teacher to the facilitator thereby making the student responsible for his/her own learning. Standardized testing will also change by incorporating critical thinking questions, in which students need to problem solve, show their work, and explain how they arrived at their answer. These assessment tools are called BCRs, which stand for Brief Constructed Responses. Students will no longer be expected to regurgitate their knowledge in the form of multiple-choice questions.
CCS standards emphasize the shift to nonfiction, incorporation of technology and students’ supporting their arguments with research based evidence. You should expect your child or teen to participate in more collaborative lessons that emphasize speaking and listening skills rather than independent work.
In my opinion, there are many positive aspects of the new standards. Teachers will be allowed to be more creative and students will get to interact more in the classroom. They will be able to determine their own learning, and be forced to think, research and explain why they believe certain things to be true. This shift will hopefully create more active learners.
As a Special Education teacher, I believe the CCS could help students because there will not be only one correct answer as there has been with multiple-choice assessments. However, for students who have a hard time working in groups and expressing their thoughts in writing and speaking, the CCS could present more challenges. I think teachers will have to teach guided lessons on outlining, underlining, and note taking that help students to analyze literature and expository writing. In addition, teachers will have to teach social skills through role-playing and prepare students for group work by possibly giving each students a specific job in the group and clearly outlining the each student’s responsibility. In settings with many special education students, the teacher will have to constantly circulate the classroom during collaborative groups to ensure that members are equally participating. She may have to facilitate the small groups if she observes some members not participating. I do not believe this will be a fast and easy process, but hopefully it will make classroom learning a lot more fun, creative and interactive.