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Understanding the Common Core State Standards

This morning the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Achieve and the Hunt Institute hosted an event to discuss the Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI), “Understanding the Common Core State Standards.” The panelists were members of the CCSI English Language Arts and Mathematics teams:

  • Jason Zimba, Professor of Mathematics and Physics, Bennington College, Student Achievement Partners and member of the CCSI mathematics work team, and
  • David Coleman, President, Student Achievement Partners and member of the CCSI English Language Arts work team.

In general, the standards allow for progression flexibility and allow states to cover topics that matter most for college and career readiness.

Jason Zimba discussed the Mathematics standards stating that they chart a path for college and career readiness on an international level. They also focus on conceptual understanding and procedural skills in a way that current state standards do not.  This deeper rigor will make it hard for students to avoid mastery of math concepts.

David Coleman said that the English Language Arts standards balance historical and scientific texts with literature, however, they are not meant to address content, but rather reading skills required for those disciplines. These standards should also show students that mastering reading skills opens them up to learning other subjects and prepares them for college and career. This is important because the ability to communicate is increasingly important in the workplace.

Regarding the “15 percent more” component of the standards that allows states to alter 15 percent of the standards, Coleman said that it compensates for areas of disagreement and allows states to add content that is missing from the standards but it important to their state.

There was one question from a community college stakeholder in the audience that asked whether any thought had been given to expanding the standards to postsecondary.  The panelists said that in developing the current standards they looked at what colleges require of students, but they would not elaborate further.

Finally, in response to another question, Coleman said that it is essential to improve data systems so that we can know where students go when they leave school.  Having this information could inform future revisions of the standards.

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