Beginning on April 16, students in grades 3 through 8 in our school district and all across New York State will be taking state tests in English language arts. The following week, those students will be taking state assessments in mathematics.
The tests are an annual spring ritual for our schools and our students. But this year’s tests will be different. For the first time, the state assessments will be based on the new Common Core Learning Standards which have been adopted by New York, 44 other states, and the District of Columbia.
Leaders of the State Education Department have said families and teachers should be prepared to see lower scores on the grades 3 through 8 assessments as a result of this transition to the new standards.
State Education Commissioner John King has said, “The new tests will reflect the Common Core Standards, so the tests will be more challenging. Students will be asked to read more difficult texts, to use evidence to support their arguments, and to perform multiple-step math problems.”
Commissioner King stresses, “The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not be interpreted as a decline in student learning or a decline in educator performance.”
Here is a short video from the State Education Department explaining the Common Core Standards and how state assessments are changing.
You may watch a very brief video explanation of how the new standards are expected to affect test results here.
A more detailed (nine-page) explanation of the transition in standards and assessments can be read here.
In broad terms, the intent of the new standards is that students who meet them should be ready to succeed in what they attempt after school – college study, a job, or both. The Common Core requires schools and students to drill deeper into key topics, instead of briskly covering many topics. They aim to push students to develop critical thinking skills in a real world context. They require instruction in each grade to build more deliberately than in the past upon skills learned in the grade before.
A wealth of resources to help you understand the demands and opportunities presented by the Common Core can be found in the State Education Department’s Common Core Toolkit for Parents and Families, available at engageny.org.
In addition, here are some other resources that might be of help:
• Frequently Asked Questions
• Common Core State Standards Initiative
• Common Core "Shifts” for Students and Parents
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.
The standards are informed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.
These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:
Are aligned with college and work expectations;
Are clear, understandable and consistent; Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and