The Common Core State Standards, adopted by Washington state in 2011, aim to develop common learning expectations for K-12 students across the country. CCSS establish consistent goals for what students will learn at each grade level. The standards are the same throughout the city, state and country. Comparable learning expectations for all students, no matter where they live, promote equity in education and ensure that all students are prepared to succeed in college and the workforce.
CCSS are designed to prepare students for college and career readiness. Students show that they are college and career ready in the following ways:
- Demonstrate independence and self-direction
Comprehend and evaluate complex texts
Construct effective spoken and written arguments
Discern a speaker’s point of view and key ideas
Articulate their own ideas and build on the ideas of others
Speak and write with command of standard English conventions
- Develop content knowledge
Research and study proficiently
- Express rigorous mathematical ideas through symbols and patterns
Understand and access key mathematical concepts such as place value and ratios
Calculate accurately and efficiently
Apply mathematical knowledge in appropriate situations
The department of curriculum, instruction and assessment began to transition to Common Core State Standards several years ago with a focus on building awareness and implementation of:
Three Key Shifts in Mathematics Instruction
The Standards for Mathematical Practice
Three Key Shifts in English/Language Arts Instruction
Close Reading in English/Language Arts and across Content Areas
These areas of focus were selected because they represent essential changes in standards and practice contained within CCSS.
The Three Key Shifts in Mathematics include: greater focus on fewer topics to establish strong foundations; linking topics and thinking across grades to increase coherence in the study of mathematics; and balanced focus on establishing conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application of mathematics to appropriate situations and problems.
The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe “processes and proficiencies” math educators should develop in student mathematicians. These standards support problem solving, conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and productive dispositions or attitudes towards mathematics.
The Three Key Shifts in English/Language Arts include: building knowledge through informational text, or “reading to learn”; reading and writing grounded in evidence from text; and frequent opportunities to read complex text including development of the academic language that supports effective readers in all three areas.
Close Reading requires that readers understand 1) what a text says, 2) how it says it, and 3) what it means. The ultimate goal of close reading is to deeply comprehend and synthesize text so that the information is integrated into the working knowledge of the reader.
The CCSS in literacy, speaking & listening, and mathematics require a shared responsibility for instruction from all teachers in all content areas. Teachers are supported in understanding these standards in the following ways:
- District level Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) for English/Content Areas and Mathematics teachers meet throughout the year to provide training and supporting instructional strategies for CCSS. These PLCs include teachers from all schools in all grade levels for all core areas of instruction. These teachers are able to share learning from the district PLC work during ongoing PLC meetings at their individual school sites.
- In depth standards training is provided to teacher leaders including literacy specialists/facilitators and teacher librarians.
- New educators are introduced to CCSS during a full day focused on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment within the full week of New Educator Training before the beginning of the school year.
Instructional leaders including principals, mentors, TOSAs, and central office administrators receive training through monthly K-12 Instructional Leadership Institutes.
- Principals request needed professional development in CCSS and other academic standards through our process for Differentiated Site-Based Professional Development. These offerings are provided at individual school sites and are personalized to the specific needs of the school, given work which has already been accomplished in this area.
- National speakers present CCSS information during professional development sessions throughout the year. Teachers may sign up for these events through our professional development portal. Speakers including Carol Jago (Close Reading), Jan Hasbrouck (Common Core ELA Standards: K-5 Implementation and The New Face of Literacy), and Bill McBride (CCSS ELA/Content Area Literacy) have presented within the last year in VPS. More presentations from outside experts are in the planning stages now for the coming year.
Teachers have access to instructional materials and resources to support CCSS in mathematics and English/Language Arts. The fall implementation of the new elementary program, Reading Wonders from McGraw Hill is the final phase of the update of resources.
Professional development in the coming years will focus on deepening understanding of standards, student performance expectations, and instructional practices that support student success in achieving post-secondary readiness for college, career and life.
This spring students in grades three through eight, 10 and 11 will take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which has been designed to assess attainment of Common Core State Standards. SBA will replace most existing state tests in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.
Developed with input from K-12 educators, higher education faculty and research experts, the SBAs allow students to demonstrate problem-solving skills through writing and performance tasks. Performance tasks challenge students to apply their knowledge and skills to complex real-world problems. Questions and activities on the assessment are meant to measure students’ depth of understanding, writing and research skills and complex analysis—a key component of college and career readiness.
SBA is more than a year-end test. The assessment provides teachers and parents with better information to help students succeed. Teachers can access tools that help them check in on student progress throughout the year. Optional interim assessments help teachers plan and improve instruction.
Another benefit of SBA is the buy-in from higher education. Washington public colleges, including community and technical colleges, have endorsed agreements offering graduating seniors from the classes of 2016 through 2018 the opportunity to use their 11th-grade SBA scores for placement in college-level coursework. A potential cost-savings for students and families can be realized by eliminating the need for remedial, noncredit college courses.
In Vancouver Public Schools additional measures of success accompany the SBA. The district is raising its expectations of rigor in middle school math, and paying close attention to key student transitions, learning environments and achievement gaps.