Common Core Standards for K-12 English language arts and math are here, and schools as we know them will never be the same. Or will they?
That’s the question Arizona and 44 other states need to answer and, as the saying goes, “Time is running out.”
The Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association members united to ensure all high school graduates in the United States can compete not only for jobs around the corner, but also around the globe. These state leaders, not the federal government, decided that we needed to have some common learning expectations for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade and a common assessment system across the U.S. to gauge how students are progressing.
The idea is to ensure that children — my son, your daughter, our grandchildren, the neighbor’s kid down the street, or any young person in one of the 45 states that adopted the Common Core Standards — are really ready for college or a career upon graduation.
The Arizona State Board of Education formally adopted the new standards in August 2010. Teachers are going back to school themselves to learn how to implement the new standards. Last year, Arizona public charter schools and districts implemented the new standards in kindergarten classrooms. This year, students in several more grades are experiencing the new learning standards, and next year the standards will be in place at all grades.
The final step in the transition to the new standards will be in 2015, when the common assessment system will be in place. That means students all across the U.S. will take similar tests, and we’ll see how students in Arizona measure up to students in the other states.
As we work together to achieve these new and more challenging standards, schools must be different. Teachers must expect more from students. Parents must expect more from teachers, schools and their children. We — as a community, state and nation — must recognize that the work to be done won’t be easy or cheap.
Ultimately, the hard work has to be done by students. They must persevere in challenging course work, have a good productive struggle now and then as they work to solve difficult problems and strive to produce their best work.
Adults will also have to work hard and realize that students and teachers need to be supported and encouraged, not blamed and discouraged. Our communities and states must invest in different resources and greater access to technology to truly meet the new learning expectations.
Parents must understand that school should be different from when they or their older children attended and work to support teachers and principals in their efforts.
Time is short. We all have a lot of work to do to make this happen.
M. Suzan DePrez is assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Mesa Unified School District.