New School Standards Will Enhance Real World Skills
Opinion Editorial on Common Core by WUHSD Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson
If you’ve been talking with local teachers, perhaps you have heard about changes in the way children and teenagers will be taught in Whittier and other local school districts. Known as the Common Core State Standards (California's CCSS Website), educators are preparing to implement an evolution in academic standards that will ensure students are college- and career-ready by the time they graduate high school.
These new standards recognize that a global economy and rapidly developing technological change require more depth to students’ education. The goal of the new standards is to infuse instructional programs with the four C’s – critical thinking, creative problem-solving, collaboration, and communication – in order to move student learning from factual recitation to analytical problem solving. In short, the Common Core State Standards and the new state assessments that will follow emphasize how to think independently and analytically.
Maybe this sounds like another “movement” – like “new math” in the 60s or the development of the state content standards in the 90s. But it is more like an evolution in instructional methods and standards. We are not reinventing or realigning the information that is being taught. Instead we are presenting the information through teaching techniques that challenge students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and to respond to complex real-world issues.
We need to help our students reach a deeper level of knowledge and be able to explain their understanding, rather than simply produce a right answer. Without these cognitive skills, our children, and therefore the United States, will be unable to compete successfully in the global economy.
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been adopted in California as part of a multi-state educational initiative. The new standards call for more rigorous, relevant and results-directed instruction. The shift to the more rigorous state standards and assessments is a tall order and will present challenges, however it is an important commitment to make on behalf of our students. Ultimately, this model will make all students college- and career-ready in mathematics, reading, writing, speaking and listening by the time they graduate from high school.
This endeavor has been in development for several years, with statistical data from research conducted internationally driving the shift. The new set of English-language arts and mathematics standards, developed for K-12 students, have already been adopted by 45 states.
Students will gain skills such as writing arguments to support claims, analyzing statistical data, evaluating decisions and participating in complex discussions to solve cross-curricular problems.
No longer will there be a one-size-fits-all state curriculum with state assessments comprised solely of multiple choice bubble tests that ask students to memorize facts and formulas. To succeed in a more complex and globally-competitive world, students will be challenged to think critically, develop communication and collaboration skills and engage in creative problem-solving that will go beyond the classroom.
The new state standards place an emphasis on developing literacy in history, science and technical subjects to prepare students for the writing, researching and analytical skills required in college and in the workplace. The standards also ensure the rigor of math standards by challenging students to apply them in real-world situations.
The standards were developed by educational researchers, teachers, parents and business and community leaders across the United States. They will serve as a guideline to assist students to achieve the goal of being college- and career-ready, and to become 21st Century learners.
I am pleased to say that in Whittier, we are setting the pace in education in California and nationally by providing early CCSS implementation. The transition to the CCSS is a difficult task for school districts, but the quality of education in Whittier provides a solid foundation for the new and more rigorous Common Core State Standards. We are already seeing the benefits of this style of learning as our students develop, grow and flourish.
The stage is set for this important evolution in public education. I encourage parents and community members to ask questions, talk to their children about what they are learning, and coordinate with teachers in order to become active participants in your children's education.