Race to the Top
Aligning Curriculum and Instruction to the Common Core State Standards
By Mark Hansen | Eastland Superintendent of Schools
The Prairie Advocate News will feature an eight (8) week series of articles explaining the different expectations of all school districts who are participating in Race to the Top 3. This is the 3rd installment.
In 2009, forty-eight (48) states committed to joining the Common Core State Standards Initiative. It seems that many in the public are unclear about the reason for this change, and the overarching goals.
The Common Core State Standards are an attempt to bring state curricula into alignment with each other. The Standards are not a federal mandate. In truth, the nation’s governors and corporate leaders founded Achieve, Inc. in 1996 as a bi-partisan organization to raise academic standards, graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability in all 50 states.
A 2004 report titled Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts, found that a high school diploma in the U.S. often represents a “broken-promise [which is supposed to] reflect adequate preparation for the intellectual demands of adult life, [but] in reality falls far short of this common sense goal.” The report suggested that the key to addressing this problem was a common set of rigorous standards.
The stated purpose of the Common Core State Standards initiative is to “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.” Aligning to the Standards is a complex process involving teachers, administrators and facilitators working together over the summer months and on school improvement days to determine at which grade levels each standard will be introduced, developed and mastered. Different instructional strategies are modeled and practiced.
Eastland is doing this work in phases, starting with mathematics in 2012-13, followed by English/Language Arts and reading in 2013-14, and science in 2014-15. As a Race to the Top 3 district, Eastland is required to complete an initial alignment to the standards in these core academic areas over the next three years. Also as an RT3 district, Eastland will be piloting the new assessments designed to measure whether students are mastering the standards.
All public schools in Illinois are, and will in the future, be aligning their curricula to the Common Core State Standards.