Next year sees the introduction of the new Common Core standards introduced across 42 states, D.C. and the Virgin Islands, with some districts such as New York City set to introduce the standards gradually, year by year. Anna Phillips and Beth Fertig, writing in the New York Times’ SchoolBook, report that city officials have sent a memorandum to public school Principals asking for that effort to be ramped up.
This year schools in the city have been trying out the new standards in math and English classes. In practical terms this means that math teachers have been focusing more on depth than breadth of knowledge and English teachers have been increasing the percentage of nonfiction texts used.
In the memo sent to principals, city officials said they expected elementary schools to double the emphasis on the new standards in math classes, covering fewer topics but in greater depth. Elementary school principals can also choose whether to apply the Common Core in English, science or social studies next year.
The Common Core standards have a specific goal in mind, and that is to make students better at being students — to prepare them more fully for college and ensure they have the skills that will be required of them at college. A major part of this is getting students to think critically about what they are reading and their own ideas about how topics and sources interrelate. Better critical thinking and analysis skills, combined with technical writing skills, will aid students aiming to write to a college standard, or simply those who need to be able to communicate effectively in the workplace.
“As they design their units this year, we want them to introduce opportunities to write, opportunities to use what we are calling text-dependent questions, where they’re really asking kids not just to summarize a text, but to analyze and to take the information from the text and construct an argument about it,”
From next year third through eighth graders taking state math and English tests will be examined on elements of the Common Core. In practical terms that means the student will be seeing more nonfiction extract appear on their exam, and be faced with more questions asking them to compare multiple sources. It’s essentially a move from English testing being about ‘summarizing’ to the enhanced skill of ‘analyzing’.
With the shift to Common Core standards in NYC it will be interesting to see if the successful pilot of the Core Knowledge Reading Method, of which Joel Klein is a chief proponent, gains additional ground as it has been widely noted that the Method does mesh well with Common Core requirements.
Regents exams will be affected from 2014 as the English, Geometry and Algebra I exams change to comply with the new standard.