There has been much discussion regarding the Common Core Standards of late. Speaking factually, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a reality that will affect all U.S. schools. The conversation has become highly politicized in areas of state and local control, federal funding, and the assessment of the CCSS. Faith Christian School is looking to participate in a gracious, thoughtful, and rational response to this movement.
There are a lot of various questions, facts, and myths being discussed by many individuals and groups throughout our state and country. In theory, the CCSS is a positive step, in that it seeks a common ground for ALL students across our country in the area of assessment, standards, and goals. Common Core is a set of standards that outlines what students should know at a particular grade level in order to be on track to mastering skills and content to be prepared for college and beyond. Curriculum – the map, schedule, and method for teaching standards – will be left up to the individual school corporations and teachers to construct.
The mission of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy” (Common Core State Standards Initiative 2012b). The stated goals for the initiative in 2009 were as follows:
- Upgrade the standards used by the states to reflect the needed rigor.
- Align the standards with the most rigorous education in the international community.
- Utilize the standards to better prepare teachers for the classroom.
- Provide accountability that will be useful to schools, districts, and states.
- Serve as a basis for assessing students by international benchmarks.
Neither Congress nor the U.S. Department of Education was involved in the development of Common Core, nor have they mandated Common Core adoption. Not all states have chosen to participate. In fact, the Common Core are nationally aligned state standards because they were developed in collaboration between state and education leaders across the country. Indiana initially adopted the Common Core on its own terms in August 2010. Since that time, the Indiana legislation has put a 1-year “freeze” on this to conduct additional research and study. The Common Core standards provide new standards for English Language Arts and math only, not social studies, science, and technical subjects. Current Indiana Academic Standards will be used for these subjects. Common Core standards call for 70% of all texts read in 12th grade to be nonfiction, which includes content area texts, such as science and history. This was done to support literacy instruction in other content areas and underscore the role that all teachers must play in literacy efforts. This will help ensure students are graduating high school adequately prepared to read rigorous college and career-level material, a majority of which are informational texts.
The assessments for the CCSS are being developed by Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Sample questions are available on the Web for mathematics and English language arts. The College Board has endorsed the CCSS, and it is in the process of aligning its testing with the standards. The standardized testing vendors are already in the process of aligning present test items with CCSS and developing reports that indicate the level of mastery by students on the aligned items.
The State of Indiana has taken this year as an opportunity to continue to evaluate its adoption of the Common Core State Standards. As administrators and educators, we at Faith Christian School are faced with some important decisions to consider and evaluations to make. The following are several approaches and steps that we are considering as this transition to the CCSS becomes more and more likely:
- Filter the CCSS through a biblical worldview as the highest standard, and only align with CCSS to the extent that the school’s mission and worldview are uncompromised, while being prepared to identify and explain the points of conflict. We believe that one of the main issues will be to carefully examine new textbooks that implement the Common Core.
- Separate the standards, content and skill statements into priorities and determine to what degree they match with the school’s grade-level scope and sequence.
- Evaluate the school’s curriculum and determine to what degree it generally matches, exceeds, or falls short of the CCSS. Seek to continue to use national/state standards as a “floor, not a ceiling”.
One of the features of the CCSS is that students are supposed to do much more synthesis and discovery of knowledge. Discovery and synthesis provides students very valuable skill development opportunities that will set them up well for 21st Century Skills. Some believe that the increased importance of the 21st Century Skills is more to the heart of the changes coming out of the Common Core Standards.
There is a very important distinction between standards and curriculum, instruction, and resources. The standards provide a baseline, and everything we do “on top of those standards”, including what our teachers bring personally to the classroom, is what makes our school different and special from other schools. Faith Christian School maintains complete control over the textbooks and resources that we use to insure they align with our mission. As a private, Christian school, we have a great degree of discretion on how the CCSS and other state standards impact our school.
The field of education is constantly changing, and we are trying to provide our students with the opportunity to be effective and relevant in their future plans. We understand that it is very easy to react to information that we receive. We are seeking ways to react with a balanced and well-informed approach. We plan to be in a good position to continue to learn more about the CCSS as well as evaluate our curriculum through a biblical grid while putting our students in a position to be successful in their future endeavors.
Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2012a. About the standards. www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards.
Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2012b. Mission Statement. www.corestandards.org.
CCSS Joint Position Statement of ACSI, CSI, ORUEF/ICAA, and NCSA – 8/1/13.
Common Core Facts of Indiana Students & Families. Stand for Children. www.stand.org/indiana/common-core/myths-vs-facts.
McDonald, Dale. 2011. Do Common Core Standards have implications for Catholic schools? Momentum (April/May): 65-66. www.readperiodicals.com/201104/2364084141.html.
Prior, Karen Swallow. 2013. The good news of Common Core. Christianity Today (June). www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/june-we-only/good-news-of-common-core.html.
Reeves, Douglas B. 2011. Getting ready for common standards. American School Board Journal (March)