The president of the California State Board of Education discussed “State Policy to Implement Common Core Standards in Education: It Changes Almost Everything” in a Morning Forum of Los Altos presentation Oct. 1.
Michael W. Kirst, Ph.D., explained why the state Department of Education decided to implement Common Core State Standards (CCSS), national educational standards that focus on deeper learning in the areas of mathematics and language arts and aim to better prepare K-12 students for post-secondary education and/or the workplace.
The goals of CCSS are to teach students how to solve concrete problems and apply core concepts to real-world tasks, transfer knowledge and skills to new situations, read and understand increasingly complex texts, communicate ideas and collaboratively solve problems, communicate effectively in multiple media across content areas and engage in research.
According to Kirst, California adopted CCSS because it standardizes education for K-12 students who move to other states and for graduates who attend colleges or seek employment in areas where educational systems vary from California’s. The program has been adopted by 45 states since 2010.
California serves more than 6 million students, including 1.6 million English language learners, Kirst said, encompassing 1,000 school districts and employing 300,000 teachers. Statistics report that of the 62 percent of California high school graduates who attend community colleges, 54 percent require remedial math and English classes, and 70 percent fail to graduate.
“These numbers pointed out the disjuncture between K-12 learning and higher education,” Kirst said.
Part of the problem is the evaluation process itself, Kirst noted, adding that current achievement tests are multiple choice and don’t present teachers a clear idea of what students are learning. New statewide testing will be implemented electronically, with software that either increases or decreases the complexity of questions, revealing students’ understanding of current curriculum.
Complex, informational texts that emphasize analysis, reflection and research skills will replace the previous textbooks, Kirst said. In mathematics, for example, students will learn to apply critical-thinking skills to model problems. Words such as “understand,” “describe,” “justify,” “prove,” “assess,” “analyze” and “compare,” should prepare students for real-world challenges, he added.
The Morning Forum of Los Altos is a members-only lecture series that meets at Los Altos United Methodist Church. For membership details and more information, visit morningforum.org.