Race to the Top is a $4.35 billion competitive federal grant program that provides a financial reward to states that develop and implement programs which create the conditions for significant educational improvement by closing achievement gaps, increasing high school graduation rates and college preparedness.
Adoption of standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace in order to compete in the global economy is one of the fund’s four education reform areas.
While Maryland did not apply for the first round of funding, it does intend to compete this June. To bolster the state’s efforts the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was formed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA).
The CCSSI is in the process of creating a set of grade-by-grade voluntary state standards for what students should know in English/language arts, math, and eventually science.
Critics of the concept of common core standards are concerned that curriculum may be “dumbed down” to meet the academic needs of a student population that grows more diverse each year. Supporters believe it is the best way to ensure uniformity and academic accountability.
To provide an overview of the program and help parents make an informed decision on the merits of a common core curriculum the CCSSI provides answers to the following frequently asked questions:
What are educational standards?
Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful by providing clear goals for student learning.
Who leads the Common Core State Standards Initiative?
The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards.
Why is the Common Core State Standards Initiative important?
High standards that are consistent across states provide teachers, parents, and students with a set of clear expectations that are aligned to the expectations in college and careers. The standards promote equity by ensuring all students, no matter where they live, are well prepared with the skills and knowledge necessary to collaborate and compete with their peers in the United States and abroad.
Unlike previous state standards, which were unique to every state in the country, the Common Core State Standards enable collaboration between states on a range of tools and policies, including:
the development of textbooks, digital media, and other teaching materials aligned to the standards;
and the development and implementation of common comprehensive assessment systems to measure student performance annually that will replace existing state testing systems; and
changes needed to help support educators and schools in teaching to the new standards.
How do the Common Core State Standards compare to previous state standards?
The Common Core State Standards were written by building on the best and highest state standards in existence in the U.S., examining the expectations of other high performing countries around the world, and careful study of the research and literature available on what students need to know and be able to do to be successful in college and careers.
No state in the country was asked to lower their expectations for their students in adopting the Common Core. The standards are evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills, and are informed by other top performing countries. They were developed in consultation with teachers and parents from across the country so they are also realistic and practical for the classroom.
Will there be tests based on the Common Core State Standards?
Yes. States that adopted the Common Core State Standards are currently collaborating to develop common assessments that will be aligned to the standards and replace existing end of year state assessments. These assessments will be available in the 2014-2015 school year.
Next week- Part II Common Core Standards
Jayne Matthews Hopson is an education writer and mother of a son attending college. She believes education matters because “only the educated are free.”