THE TOP TEN QUESTIONS ABOUT COMMON CORE

Jan 14, 2014 by

common core questionsMichael F. Shaughnessy –

Now that this thing called the “Common Core“ has been adopted by the majority of the states, the questions seem to be pouring into my office via e-mail and phone from teachers, administrators etc. So, today, I will be posting some of the main questions that perhaps someone out there can respond to on this site.

  1. Is there a single person who can respond to teachers, parents and principals questions regarding common core?
  2. Does Common Core address the needs of students with physical problems, emotional issues, vision and hearing problems, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, autism, emotional –problems and all of the IDEA categories?
  3. Is there a difference between what the students should be able to DO, as well as what they should KNOW?
  4. Is there a web site where teachers/principals/parents can get their questions answered?
  5. What is a “passing score“ on any of the Common Core tests?
  6. Is there any philosophical base for Common Core?
  7. Have the Common Core tests been standardized and if so, by who or whom?
  8. Is there any research base on Common Core?
  9. Are any sample tests available for teachers to examine?
  10. What about writing skills and abilities? Is there any part of the Common Core that assesses these skills ?
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    Marcia ELA 7th grade g/t

    1. NO – the development of the CCS was led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association (and funded privately in large part by the Gates Foundation) and highly recommended for adoption by the fed in exchange for taxpayer $
    2. Special Ed needs have NEVER been addressed by standards because the standards are for ALL learners in general. Individual student needs are to be addressed by the classroom teacher with the assistance of special education personnel. Modifications and accommodations (and any other special needs in the regular ed classroom) are the responsibility of the classroom teacher. And with gifted, the same is true. CCS does NOTHING for the gifted – it is my responsibility as the classroom teacher to provide modifications and accommodations for gifted students.
    3. Of course there is a difference: a skill is a skill; a fact is a fact. The CCS assessments are attempting to assess skills in ELA and Math – but I haven’t seen a complete test, just a “typical” question or 2.
    4. Depends on the question. CCS questions can probably be answered on the Common Core State Standards Initiative site; questions about the tests (Smarter Balanced or PARRC) can possibly be answered on their respective sites.
    5. Unknown. The numbers have always been fuzzy. Ohio has changed the “cut score” every year and it isn’t known until the tests are scored. Hmmmmmmmm………
    6. Yes – see the Common Core site: “As a natural outgrowth of meeting the charge to define college and career readiness, the Standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century.”
    7. When we talk about “standardized tests,” people assume it means something it doesn’t. “Standardized” simply means that the test questions are based on the academic standards adopted for that particular grade level in that academic subject, so the assessment is designed to assess student performance on those academic standards. Yes, all my students have all the same questions, if that’s what you mean by “standardized,” but they don’t all have the same test – Ohio has a number of versions with the same passages in different orders so as to reduce the chances of students copying. So, yes, the CCS tests will be “standardized” as they will be designed to assess those CCS in that particular grade level in that particular academic content. Those tests are being designed by the Smarter Balanced and PARRC consortia- probably farmed out to Pearson or some other test corporation that also sells the textbooks and software packages that support success on the CCS tests. Follow the money……….
    8. Actual application-in-a-classroom research prior to publication, not as far as I know. The Standards document states in the Introduction: “As specified by the CCSSO and NGA, the Standards are (1) research and evidence based [which is, I believe, buried in an Appendix somewhere], (2) aligned with college and work expectations, (3) rigorous, and (4) internationally benchmarked. A particular standard was included in the document only when the best available evidence indicated that its mastery was essential for college and career readiness in a twenty-first century, globally competitive society.” SO, they used Wiggins and McTigue’s idea of “Backward by Design” and started with the end in mind and notched down the standard statements from there. Unknown if they included consideration of developmental appropriateness.
    9. Some sample questions are available, but no complete test samples. Of more importance to educators whose evaluations are tied to test results, we don’t know how we will be measured by student test scores and we don’t know what’s on the test: how many questions about informational text, how many about literary text; how many informational and literary texts; will the informational texts be academic area specific so content knowledge becomes valuable or lack thereof detrimental; what thought processes do the test designers assume 7th graders have to analyze and comprehend the questions and written response prompts; what is expected in written responses such as format, style, genre, length; will there be separate grammar questions from what is assessed in the written responses; I could go on. Add to that – the value-added calculations are really fuzzy and originally used to measure the physical growth of corn and other crops based on controlled and designed and “standard” (the same for all) treatments. Guess we really just need to be corn.
    10. Writing skills? YES!!!! CCS has TWO sets of standards to cover writing: Writing and Language. AND there is no longer a “Reading” assessment – it will be an ELA assessment, and a student’s written responses to questions about a text – or a combination of texts – will be evaluated for writing and, supposedly, research skills. At least one consortium is developing a “Speaking and Listening” assessment, and then all of the ELA CCS will be assessed, not just Literary and Informational Text (Reading) and Writing and Language (Writing) standards.

    Hope this answers some of your questions.
    I was on the Ohio ELA CCS committee tasked to develop a Crosswalk between the old and CC standards and produce the state CCS Model Curriculum.

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