Guest column: Common core state standards at CVU

By the CVU School Board


As many of you know, Vermont, along with 45 other states, adopted a common set of educational standards called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This set of standards articulates what we expect our students to know and be able to do in grades pre-K-12. It replaces Vermont’s current Framework of Standards (which were used along with standards from other top-performing countries and states to inform the new standards).

One important reason the CCSS has been adopted by so many states is that it standardizes learning across the country, so that students moving from one state to another are not at risk for developing learning gaps due to differences in educational practices. Another is that it allows for the comparison of educational performance across states using a common standard. The changes in standards are also intended to increase both academic rigor and higher-order thinking skills, and emphasize skills to make all students “college or career ready.” The development of these standards was led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The Common Core was adopted by Vermont in 2010. Since that time, educators have been undergoing professional development related to its implementation and evaluation and are developing “core” aligned units of study that cut across ELA, Math, Science and History/Social Sciences subject areas.

In spring 2015, CVU and schools across the state and country will begin formal testing of student common core competencies in math and literacy for students in grades 3, 8 and 11 using a new testing protocol referred to as the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), which replaces NECAP testing in these subject areas. (The development of new science standards are currently in the works.) SBAC tests will be administered and taken on a computer and will allow for both formative assessments (used to monitor student performance and allow for timely instructional feedback) and summative assessments (used to evaluate student learning against a benchmark). The SBAC will also make use of new computer adaptive technology. In computer adaptive testing, grade level students will start with a common set of questions, but subsequent questions will depend on the results of the initial set, and so on. In this way, the test will evolve (adapt) to each learner, yielding rich assessment data that can be used to drive and differentiate student instruction, thereby better meeting the unique needs of each student. As a result of the new testing platform, SBAC test results are also expected to be available more quickly than NECAPs.

In order to meet some of the goals described above, the CCSS is driving several significant shifts in high school educational practices. Here are a few:

-Increase student experience with informational text in English language arts classes as well as history, social studies and science classes. Seventy percent of reading at the high school level should be information, non-fiction, in preparation for college level reading.

-Teach with complex text, instructing students at all grade levels, including high school, to use “close reading” strategies to better comprehend challenging text.

-Increase student understanding of effective discourse. Specific standards articulate the need for evidence based argument, defense, and student to student interaction in all subject areas.

-Use of multiple text types. Where one text was once used in a lesson, now teachers should use three to five different texts—one an article, one online, one a different point of view—teaching students to read with flexibility and use multiple sources to develop an argument.

-Teach students to develop evidence-based, persuasive writing.

-In mathematics, there has been some shifting of content from grade to grade. In addition, new math standards also include eight “Standards of Practice” which influence pedagogy. The practices cultivate a math environment in which students are taught to tackle challenging math like a mathematician.

One last important point: the Common Core is a set of standards for what students should know at each grade level, it is not a curriculum. With the support of the CSSU, CVU teachers will still decide how they want to teach and what curriculum they use – the standards provide schools and teachers with the framework for outcomes.

Williston representatives to the CVU School Board include Jeanne Jensen, Jonathan Milne, David Rath and Polly Malik.