As several other countries make staggering leaps in education far beyond America, educators have come together to draft a new educational system that may make American students eligible for competition on the world stage. This new system, named the Common Core State Standards Initiative, was put together years ago and has been adopted by 45 states nationally, including Oregon. It has yet to be fully implemented by these states.
Common Core cites specific curriculum to be taught in all disciplines, most specifically math and English. While these standards are based upon research and are benchmarked internationally, one main appeal is its promise to equalize curriculum nationally. Currently, states hold different standards and moving from one state to another may mean adhering to new curricula. The creators of Common Core created “rigorous content” so that education within the United States is advanced and equal from state to state.
According to Mark Martens, assistant principal, Common Core may also substitute for the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002. It is part of a waiver offered to all states for opting out of the NCLBA, as Common Core standards line up with those of the NCLBA.
“Probably the biggest thing of Common Core is making kids feel like, ‘okay, I have the skills that it takes to be successful at the next level.’ And if that’s college for me then I know that I’m prepared for that,” Martens said. “It‘s kind of an assurance.”
For high school mathematics, Common Core standards include knowledge of number and quantity (different ways to express a number), algebra, geometry, modeling (problem solving and statistics), functions (including trigonometric models), and statistics and probability. For English, students must be able to analyze at least one major theme within a work of literature by the end of grade ten, then be able to analyze two themes by the end of grade 12. Several other standards for english are included.
“Right now, we’re working the hardest on math,” Martens said. “We have a group of math teachers that went to a Common Core workshop in February, and they’re working the hardest on making sure the curriculum is aligned with the Common Core test and the information that we have about it thus far.”
The Common Core test will take the place of the currently installed Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, which students must pass for high school graduation. Common Core tests may have higher standards than these tests.
“I think one of the big question is how we roll OAKS testing over to Common Core testing, which we’ll be doing in a couple years,” Martens said. “And how that transition takes place, we’re not quite clear on right now.”
Another large question arises when considering holding current freshmen, who have already completed a year of high school, to the Common Core standards for graduation. These freshmen may have to take Common Core tests during their junior and senior year instead of OAKS, making for a mixed state testing record. In addition, OAKS waives some tests if scores on the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test or Scholastic Assessment test are high enough. Martens expects that Common Core will do something similar.
OAKS gives students three chances to pass each test, yet Common Core only provides one shot. Those that do not pass Common Core during the first round of testing will not be able to be screened for a second or third shot at testing.
“If a student doesn’t pass the Common Core test but passes other examinations with a parallel score, we speculate that Common Core will say, ‘that’s a commensurate score to the Common Core test. We’ll let that count for graduation,’ ” Martens said.
Common Core is to be fully implemented in Oregon in the 2014/2015 school year. The graduation requirements of having three science credits and three art, second language or Continuing Technical Education credits are part of the implementation.
West Linn High School is adjusting its curriculum by gathering departments and administration together to discuss these new standards and how to meet every criterium that Common Core requires. Martens expects that most of these will be close to what is installed already.
“I think departmentally, going through the school, administrators can help teachers go through the common core guidelines and standards making sure our curriculum lines up,” Martens said.
Most students at WLHS are yet unaware of these new changes.
“It seems like a good idea, ‘cause I know our school does a very good job of meeting those requirements,” Diana Swanson, sophomore, said.