Across the nation, the term “Common Core” has found its way into our homes since 2010. As defined on the Common Core Standards website, “The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”
As No Child Left Behind lost support, Common Core emerged as a state-led way to define clear goals and expectations of teachers throughout the United States. States are not required to adopt Common Core practices, but when they do, the goals are aligned nationwide. The idea behind the movement is that a student could move seamlessly from school to school in any state – provided the student and the schools are reaching the Common Core benchmarks. In Pennsylvania, the policies were adopted in the summer of 2010, promising full implementation in grades K-12 by the 2013 – 2014 school year. Pennsylvania has now completely aligned all public schools with the Common Core goals.
Each state implements standardized testing modules to measure academic benchmarks. Pennsylvania has chosen not to administer the national exams, but to continue to use the PSSA and Keystone Exams which have been in place for many years:
- Every Pennsylvania student is assessed in English Language Arts and Mathematics which are taken by students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
- Every Pennsylvania student in grades 4 and 8 are administered the Science PSSA.
- The Keystone Exams are end-of-course high school assessments designed to assess proficiency in the subject areas of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Literature, English Composition, Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, World History, and Civics and Government.
Source: PA Department of Education
As it stands today, 43 states have adopted the Common Core practices. Subject areas only include Mathematics & English language arts, and allow for teachers to explore other subjects as ways to define the standards for the subject they teach. In Pennsylvania, many students may not have noticed a shift, as roughly 85% of the Common Core Math and English benchmarks in the state already matched or exceeded the “new” national standards.
How does Common Core affect cyber school education? Check back later this month as we look at how Common Core standards and practices impact online learning choices.