Tag Archives: common core

Idaho Still Has Current Issues With Common Core

One of the later adopters of Common Core as of January 24, 2011, Idaho has faced a tumultuous end to 2015. With scores on the state’s first assessment based on the Common Core coupled with parents fighting to have a say on opting out of the program altogether, the state is doing what it can to find a happy medium within such a complex situation.

 

Released Scores

In July, Idaho released the preliminary results of their Idaho Standards Achievement Test, one put together by Smarter Balanced, a consortium of states working together to create exams based off of the Core’s new standards. Unsurprisingly, the results were low. As a new test asking about higher standards, virtually all educators were expecting a dip in scores as both they and the children learn to adapt.

As it stands, only half of all students are proficient or more in both English and math. Critics ask for more information, such as figuring out how reliable the test actually is. Teachers are working to figure out how best to improve these grades come the next test. Because of this, most educators all but expect the scores to increase over time.

 

Released Controversy

Common Core is one of the nation’s most debated topics at the moment in regards to education. While Idaho has managed to get through the past four years relatively unscathed, this recent year has proven to be challenging.

In the latter half of this year, parents banded together to create a “parental rights” bill. This document was designed to require all Idaho schools to create opt-out processes for parents, giving them the legal right to shield their children from material they don’t agree with. Luckily, it was a bill that died in a House Education Committee hearing.

The reason this has been so frustrating for educators is the fact that student participation is directly tied to government funding. In an age where schools scrape the bottom of the barrel year after year, losing $57.2 million would be a crippling blow. Current law states that in order for Title I funding from the government to continue, at least 95% of all students in the state have to participate in the annual testing. If parents had gotten the bill to pass, this would have resulted in drastic educational harm in addition to severely increased taxes to make up for the deficit.

Crushing the bill, however, doesn’t mean that the educators of the state aren’t listening. Idaho’s superintendent Sherri Ybarra is doing everything she can to find a balance without sacrificing the funding desperately needed to protect the most vulnerable students across the state. For this, she’s putting her faith in a continually developing Core standard set that will produce great results in the future.

Common Core Standards vs Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills

Teachers in Texas have a guiding standard to use when writing lesson plans, when establishing a schedule and setting the pace for learning particular content. It’s called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. TEKS governs every subject matter taught in Texas and tells teachers what specific skill to teach at a given time. For example, with reading, a middle school 6th grader has to know how to find the main idea in a reading passage, how to compute mathematical algorithms, how to test scientific theories, how to identify geographic locations of varied societies and more. Texas is one of the states that elected not to participate in Common Core Curriculum. To clarify that, it passed the House, but Governor Rick Perry banned it with House Bill (HB) 462.

The TEKS are provided using particular language, and every single one has a unique TEKS number.

However, things get even more specific within the content areas. For example, to take the main idea requirement a little further, a students in 6th grade may start the year off reading informational text and summarizing the main idea and the supporting ideas in that text. Students will learn how to keep opinions out of main idea summarizations, and they learn to do this through practice. Later in the year, the student will need to read expository text and summarize the main idea and supporting ideas in that text. Expository text will likely be more complex, and typically involves Science and Social Studies passages. By scheduling expository text later in the year, planners anticipate that the student will have gained mastery of main idea using the simpler text periodically; and then graduating to expository text when they’ve gained the necessary skill. This is because they will need to have to wade through the complexities of the expository text itself later in the year. If students have mastered main idea, they won’t have trouble with it using varied text. Practice is what will get them to the destination called mastery.

There are even TEKS in physical education. For that same 6th grader, they will need to demonstrate the ability to do activities in a smooth, flowing sequence. The way it reads, they have to “perform sequences that combine traveling, rolling, balancing, and weight transfer into smooth, flowing sequences.” A PE teacher may have to have them practice each individual skill until they master it. Otherwise, when it’s time to do them all in a flowing sequence, they will have much trouble.

The language starts off with words to the effect of, “The student will be able to,” or “The student is expected to.” From there the language completes the sentence beginning with a verb such as demonstrate, conduct, identify, describe, express, etc.

One example for health education for a 6th grader might read like this: The student is expected to analyze healthy and unhealthy dietary practices. Another one reads as follows: The student is expected to compare immediate and long-range effects of personal health care choices such as personal and dental hygiene.

To piggyback off of that last TEKS described, the student learns compare and contrast using reading passages in their reading classes. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, compare and contrast are higher order skills, and a student who is able to do it well has learned information at a deeper level called synthesis. In addition, the student learns in reading what compare and contrast mean, and how that signals distinguishing similarities and differences. It is often practiced using a Venn Diagram, which is a special graphic organizer of interlocking hoops. If students were to compare and contrast bats and blue jays, the students use the sides and middle to complete the exercise. One side is labeled bats, the other side is labeled blue jays and the middle is labeled similarities. On the side labeled bats, the students will write or otherwise list the things that are true of bats, but not blue jays. On the side labeled blue jays, they will list or write the things that are true of blue jays, but not bats. In the middle, where the loops overlap, they will write things that are true of both.

The truth about TEKS is that they are specific enough to guide teachers in their state’s curriculum, ensure that students are taught content that is specific for their grade level, and builds from year-to-year.

How common core standards have changed education

classroom-379216_640Education would not have evolved to the place where it now stands were it not for standards, those well-defined articulations of what students should know by a particular benchmark, such as a certain grade level. Some states use terms like essential knowledge and skills to define such standards. For example, in Texas they have the acronym of TEKS, for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. At any rate, state agencies had their state specific standards outlined in detail so that educators and others would be in compliance by setting up lesson plans and activities that exposed students to the right learning opportunities and content at the right time. Ultimately, standards informed what a graduating student should know when they finished high school. The only drawback, was that Johnny could move from Texas to Virginia and find that another standard was in place while he was getting his education. This could conceivably put him too far behind or too far ahead of his peers. Common Core standards were designed to eliminate the variances among different states.

One additional argument in favor of a common standard was that graduating high school seniors could find themselves in a college or university in another state where the preparation was deficient. Many reasons were raised that seemed to justify an across-the-board standard. It’s math and English language arts, some core subjects, that are directly impacted by the new standards. A justification given for focusing on these subjects is that they are building blocks for other subjects like Social Studies and Science. Common core applies to grades from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

Teachers were contributors to the dialog related to Common Core, and were involved in its development and implementation. Parents, administrators, state leaders, experts and others were involved in the process, as well.

Even with the advent of standards that were held to be agreed upon as consistently relevant and appropriate for all states, there was no mandate that any participate if they chose to keep their state standards intact. After all, it is a standard and not an absolute law. There are a few states that opted out, but, according to www.CoreStandards.org, 43 states are now participants.

What it means for teachers in the participating states is that the tools, resources, materials and other things should provide content that aligns with the standards. In addition, teachers in various states can now work together to develop curriculum material that aligns with the standards.

Likewise, each state does not have to have its own unique assessments with common core standards. The core standards website indicate that each state’s best came into the mixing pot, so that the end result would be a top-tier set of standards for core subjects that would provide rigor, be aligned with future goals and based upon research. Even the standards and ways students learned in other countries where student performance was high was taken into consideration.

In addition to the need for new curriculum material, ranging from digital resources, books, teacher materials, headsets for testing, audio/visual aids, flash cards, maps, textbooks and other resources; common core also requires that teachers in participating states receive adequate training so they can take their new standard back to the classroom and properly implement them. Without teacher training, and teacher buy-in the common core standards would amount to interesting text on paper.

Policymakers, leaders in business, the College Board, the National Parent/Teacher Association, and other thought leaders are in support of common core standards, according to the website.

The changing face of education

At one time there were chalkboards, and the teacher wrote information in white chalk, so that it stood out against the dark green or black background. Today’s classes probably have smartboards, which enable them and their students to interact and engage with the board in numerous ways. A pencil and paper were once standard fare, as well. That was education then, but learning has turned a corner. Technology has changed the landscape of the classroom today, and it may never be the same.

computer-103577_640iPads are starting to emerge in classrooms. Before that it was PCs and laptops. Teachers can teach a lesson using all kinds of digital technology. This demands that they not only know and study the curriculum, they must know about different forms of technology and how to maximize them in the class. Consider the words spoken by John Dewey when he understood that the classroom would advance forward. “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow,” he cautioned.

Bell ringers, which are activities for children to start on upon entering the classroom, used to be projected onto a screen with a Buhl or similar projector. Now, teachers can go to various websites and find videos with short lesson activities that students can do by following a tutorial. This keeps the students busy while the teacher takes attendance.

Teaching vocabulary and spelling used to be an involved process. Sometimes the teacher would introduce the words on Monday or day one. For homework that day, students would write each word five times. On day two, the students’ homework might involve using each word in sentence. On day three they had to write the definitions. By Thursday they needed to study all that previous work in preparation for a spelling test to be taken the next day. This system was labor intensive and involved a lot of writing. Today, teachers are using sites like Spellingcity.com to mix things up. Students still have various forms of preparation for the spelling tests, but the options may include games, practice exercises and quizzes. On Dovewhisperer.com students can access vocabulary flashcards already created by others to help them prepare for tests and to incorporate the new vocabulary.

The volumes of encyclopedias that used to drive research have been replaced by internet search engines, and even digital encyclopedias.

Tests can be taken without a pen or pencil. In fact, with online learning, many students take their tests online and complete discussions and other assignments online.

Students today are blogging on subjects as part of the classroom assignment. They are also using podcasts, creating websites, taking virtual field trips and more. The integration of instruction with technology has been the driving force behind good instructional lesson planning for many years running. Furthermore, with common core curriculum, new testing protocol dictates that headphones be used. Headphones also show up in the classroom when students listen to taped lessons, practice vocabulary or listen to a recorded lesson from their teacher. It’s a whole new world.

Tech-Savvy Students are Likely to Succeed at Common Core Tests

Are you looking for an easy way to increase your students’ scores on Common Core assessments? Today’s education system is changing rapidly as schools begin to integrate new Common Core standards into their teaching and curriculum. Common Core not only changes the way that teachers teach various subjects, but it also changes the formats of tests. If your school hasn’t already done so, it will most likely soon replace its tests with high-tech digital assessments that align with Common Core standards.

kid-with-headphones-testingThese new Common Core tests are designed to test critical thinking skills, creativity, and communication skills. Students are asked to solve real-world math problems, compare and contrast information, and synthesize information from a variety of sources. We’ve indeed come a long way since the days of bubble sheets and number two pencils.

You may not even recognize Common Core tests are tests. They actually look more like online games, as the students take these tests on computers using headphones, and microphones. Many teachers, parents, and students are getting ahead of the game by familiarizing themselves with this new equipment. Students who are comfortable using computers, and related technology will likely perform better on Common Core assessments. Students who have mastered basic word processing will feel at ease with the new Common Core tests, and older students may even be asked to use spreadsheets, and understand graphical representations of data.

Having the best headphones for Common Core assessments is of the utmost importance. Most student and teachers prefer headphones with built-in volume controls. This is because many students who aren’t very tech-savvy may make mistakes when attempting to change the volume via the computer. Some studies show that students even accidentally exit the test when attempting to change the volume. In order to ensure that all students are comfortable taking these news tests, it is very important to have high quality computers, and headphones for the tests. Quality headphones that are easy to use, and include built-in volume control can help students with special needs excel at their Common Core assessments.