Thursday, July 23, 2009

Common core: a first glimpse

The common core standards project is under way. Expert panels have created first drafts of the reading and mathematics knowledge and skills students need for entry-level college and work-force training. The draft has been sent out for review by other key players, and the Core Knowledge blog posted it yesterday. You can download the draft here, with the caveat that revisions are already underway.

My first take is that the draft is good work:
  • The expectations are stated clearly and briefly.
  • The language arts portion calls for reading work I remember as hard work in high school and writing capacities I use in every day of my own work.
  • The mathematics portion is heavy on algebra and heavy on working out how to use the equations to get things done.
  • The examples of reading and mathematics tasks strike me as especially helpful for understanding the level of work students will be expected to do.
I'd expect nearly all parents to struggle with some of the specifics, both because we didn't learn some of the skills at all and because some of that we learned has slipped away over the years. If we want future high school graduates to do higher level work than past high school graduates, we have to expect that. Most of us could make sense of a full set of sixth-grade math standards, because we're still using those skills, but the end of high school is and ought to be different.

Finally, here's something intriguing: the language arts includes listening and speaking, which implies that the designers think there are reasonable ways to measure those capacities. Remembering that ACT, Inc., and the College Board dominated the drafting groups, I'm intrigued. Are they seriously preparing to offer assessments of oral and aural capacities?

Stay tuned for future drafts, debates, and developments!

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