What Does the Common Core Mean for NC?
February 7, 2013
The Common Core State Standards have been in place in North Carolina public school classrooms for about half of a year now and parents, teachers and students report that they already like what they are seeing, reading and learning from the new curriculum.
These standards were developed in 2009 by a consortium of 48 states and led by governors and chief state school officers. In June of 2010, our State Board of Education formally adopted it as the English language arts and mathematics pieces of North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study. Since then, the NCDPI has prepared thousands of teachers across the state to return to their schools and train their colleagues in the best ways to implement the new standards.
So what does the Common Core mean for North Carolina?
Equity and mobility are among the first benefits we can count on. A total of 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense schools have adopted the Common Core State Standards. This means that there will be equity across state lines in terms of the quality of the public schools curriculum. This also means that students who move from one state to another, including military families’ students, will not have to worry about falling behind or catching up. Everyone should be on the same page and on track to college and career readiness.
As a result of our implementation of the Common Core, we also are now able to partner with other states, pool resources and share specific best practices that improve teaching and learning. For example, now that students in different states are learning the same things in these subject areas, we are developing shared assessments to provide a more accurate comparison of how North Carolina students’ performance measures up against that of their peers in other states. Sharing one curriculum also opens up opportunities for more collaboration among educators on lesson plans, professional development and in many other areas too.
The Common Core also provides more clarity in the alignment of resources. Before shared standards, textbook publishers produced books that were somewhat aligned to many different curriculums in different states. Now that many states share one curriculum, resources developed to complement this one curriculum are a perfect match for all participating states rather than just a mediocre match for some.
Equity, mobility, improved testing and better aligned resources are wonderful, yet the Common Core’s most significant impact is on what is happening in classrooms every day. Some teachers have said they feel like first-year teachers all over again, and that is ok. Changing to different standards does require more work for teachers in learning new course material, adjusting lesson plans and switching to new assessments. Yet I am confident that educators across North Carolina are up to this challenge and are making tremendous progress in implementing the new curriculum in all disciplines.
For example, many teachers are watching students develop valuable skills thanks to the Common Core’s focus on evidence in text. This focus encourages students to think more critically and provide the meaning behind an answer instead of just selecting a correct response from a group.
Teachers also have said that because the Common Core is more focused on a smaller number of key concepts, they can go into greater depth with core topics instead of trying to “cover” too many in a very limited amount of time.
Another response I have heard from teachers over and over again is that the Common Core helps them answer the age-old student question, “When will I ever use this stuff?” And as more students see the connections between what they are learning in class and their goals for the future, they will stay on track to earning their diploma and student achievement and our graduation rate will continue to climb.
The Common Core is one important tool in our efforts to graduate students who are globally aware, financially and environmentally literate, and skilled in synthesis, analysis, critical thinking and communications. These are the type of graduates who will succeed in job training programs, higher education and a career. And these are the students who will lead North Carolina in the future.
June St. Clair Atkinson