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Shakespeare Is Here to Stay, and Other Answers to FAQs on the Common Core State Standards

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August 22, 2013 04:59 pm


While forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), approximately two-thirds of Americans say they have never heard of them, according to results released this week from the PDK/Gallup Poll. To better inform the public about the standards while also addressing the many misimpressions surrounding them, the Alliance for Excellent Education released a new report, Common Core State Standards 101. The report examines how the CCSS initiative came about, what role the federal government did—and did not—play in their adoption, and how to ensure that the standards deliver on their promise to fundamentally improve the quality of teaching and learning in the United States.

“The Common Core State Standards have been beset by fear-mongering and scare tactics that divert attention from the positive impact the standards can have for all students,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia. “This new Alliance report properly recognizes the development by states of the Common Core State Standards as truly a watershed moment in American education and dispels incorrect notions surrounding the standards’ development, adoption, and implementation.”

In the last pages of the report, we have included a quick, handy guide to the most common questions and answers about the Common Core State Standards. We’ll be sharing these FAQs on our Facebook page, as well, so make sure to “like” us for more. Without further ado, here are the six most frequently asked questions we receive about the CCSS, along with the answers.

Will the CCSS get rid of Shakespeare? 
The English language arts (ELA) standards state explicitly that a substantial amount of reading students do should be nonfiction – 50 percent in elementary school and 70 percent in high school. This represents a significant shift from most school practices; research in primary grades, for example, has shown that children in early grades read almost no nonfiction. Yet the reading students will do after high school will be mostly nonfiction, including technical manuals, historical documents, and scientific journals.

This requirement has led some commenters to express concern that the CCSS are driving literature from the curriculum. However, the standards document makes clear that the reading requirement is spread across all courses. Students will read nonfiction in history, science, and math classes, and will continue to read literature in ELA classes. The CCSS also do not include a required fiction or nonfiction reading list, but they do do include a list of exemplary texts to show appropriate complexity for each grade level. That list features many classic works of literature – including those written by Shakespeare!

Will the CCSS eliminate cursive writing? 
No! The standards are silent about cursive writing; they spell out expectations for the content of student writing, as well as for the use of language conventions, like grammar and spelling. Although the standards specify that students should use technology to produce and publish writing, they do not preclude or discourage writing in other forms. States eager to ensure that their students continue to receive instruction in cursive writing have added this requirement to their standards, a practice permitted since states can add up to 15% additional material.

Will students be able to take algebra in 8th grade? 
Yes. Many districts have mandated algebra for eighth graders, but many others have not. The CCSS do not specify a curriculum, but, rather, leave that decision to local districts. Districts with eighth-grade algebra, as well as districts that leave the subject for ninth graders, can meet the standards. The standards for grades one through seven will prepare students for algebra.

In fact, the CCSS might do better than many previous state standards in preparation for algebra. The standards for arithmetic, for example, present the topic as a precursor for algebraic thinking, not as a discrete skill, in that respect, the standards follow the practice of many high-performing nations, where students perform much better in mathematics, including algebra, than US students do.

Will students be able to take calculus? 

Yes. Students would not be required to take calculus, but districts and schools can accelerate students o that they take calculus in high school, just as many students do now. The CCSS are not designed to hold anyone back; they are intended to establish a high floor for every student.

Will the CCSS create a national database on students? 

No. Each state will continue to use the same policies and procedures for student privacy that it already has in place. The assessment consortia will collect background data on students – their race and ethnicity, special education status, and so forth – in order to provide information on the aggregate performance of subgroups of students, but hey will not collect data that will enable anyone to identify individual students. Prohibitions on individual student data remain, and the consortia will not collect information on student attitudes or beliefs.

Will the federal government control the assessments? 
No. The federal government provided funds for the development of the assessments, but the work of the consortia has been governed and led by the states that comprise them. The states determined the format and content of the assessments. That arrangement will continue. The federal development funds end on September 30, 2014, and the federal government will have no role in the administration of the assessments.

To learn more about the CCSS, read the full paper, Common Core State Standards 101online here.


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