Implementation of the new Common Core standards “has the potential to dramatically improve college readiness and help close the preparation gap that exists for California students,” say the state’s major systems of higher education.
In a joint letter sent to the California State Board of Education just a few weeks ago, the leaders of the University of California, the California State University system, California Community Colleges and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities affirmed their support of the new standards, which outline what students should know and be able to do in reading and mathematics from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
“The Common Core standards provide teachers and districts a roadmap to developing courses that cultivate the deep understandings required for college preparation,” the Aug. 29 letter says. “In concert with this transition, the a-g requirements for CSU and UC admission, specifically areas ‘b’ (English) and ‘c’ (Mathematics), have been updated to align with the Common Core standards and the message is being transmitted to schools, parents and students.”
Meanwhile, the state’s colleges and universities say they’re also making sure that their teacher preparation programs and administrator leadership academies reflect the new standards. You can read the full letter here.
In 2010, the California Legislature added provisions to the state Education Code that set the stage for adoption of Common Core. Implementation began in 2013-14 and is continuing this year.
Like the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges, IUSD has also embraced the new standards, in large part because they align with the district’s own Continuous Improvement Efforts.
Under Common Core, hands-on activities and collaborative exercises will be much more prevalent, and there’s been a shift toward nonfiction texts. Media skills will also be integrated into everyday lessons, writing will be shared with outside audiences and next-generation assessments will evaluate higher order processes.
Math classes will teach fewer concepts, but they will reach new depths in exploring those concepts. Students will be challenged with more real-world applications and fewer theoretical equations, and there will be a greater emphasis on learning the process rather than merely providing the correct answer.
For a primer on Common Core math, we recommend this recent column that ran in USA Today. The author is Solomon Friedberg, who chairs the math department at Boston College and is editor of a book series called “Issues in Mathematics Education.”
According to Friedberg, math has often been taught as a set of rules rather than concepts. But that’s changing.
Kids learn in elementary school that you can “add a zero to multiply by ten.” And it’s true, 237 x 10 = 2370. Never mind why. But then when kids learn decimals, the rule fails: 2.37 x 10 is not 2.370. One approach is to simply add another rule. But that’s not the best way.
Common Core saves us from plug-and-chug. In fact, math is based on a collection of ideas that do make sense. The rules come from the ideas. Common Core asks students to learn math this way, with both computational fluency and understanding of the ideas.