Monday, December 9, 2013

Shifting to the Common Core State Standards and Assessments

Shifting to the Common Core State Standards and Assessments

Many of us have heard about the Common Core State Standards and are curious about the changes that this will bring to our curriculum and assessments.  There are several key shifts in the new Massachusetts 2011 standards for both English Language Arts and Literacy and also Mathematics, and so the assessments used to measure these standards will also be evolving.

In Mathematics, there are four key shifts: Focus, Coherence, Clarity, and Rigor.

·         Key Shift #1:  Focus.  Students will focus on the most essential skills at each grade level.  Instead of covering topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, our students will focus deeply on the key understandings at each grade level to build a strong conceptual foundation.

·         Key Shift #2: Coherence.  The standards are built with progression in mind.  Principals and teachers will carefully connect the learning across grades to build the foundational knowledge necessary for new understandings.  Teachers can begin to expect that students will enter the classroom with a deep conceptual understanding of core content in order to build on it.

·         Key Shift #3:  Clarity.  The new standards are more clear and organized for all stakeholders.

·         Key Shift #4:  Rigor.  The new standards include a deeper conceptual understanding of key concepts, increased expectations for procedural skill and fluency, and an increase in the opportunities to apply math in context.

In English Language Arts and Literacy, there are also many shifts.

·         Key Shift #1:  Balance of Literary and Informational Text.  Students will now see not only classic literature and narrative texts but also, in equal amounts, informational texts.  This includes more than just non-fiction and also incorporates deciphering graphs, charts, and diagrams and using technology to communicate.

·         Key Shift #2:  Complexity of Texts.  The level of difficulty of the texts that students are required to “grapple with” at each grade level has increased.  Students will be challenged to read and comprehend challenging texts at all levels.

·         Key Shift #3:  Text-Based Answers/Writing to Text.  The new standards require students to return to the texts to formulate answers to questions and to prepare written responses.  Student writing will need to always be supported by textual evidence.

·         Key Shift #4:  Academic Vocabulary.  The new standards extend to “literacy” in all subject areas, with specific guidance for domain specific vocabulary, reading, and writing in the Science and Social Studies areas.

How will the assessments, like MCAS, be affected by the changes to the standards?

The MCAS assessments in 2013-14 will be 100% aligned to the Common Core standards in grades 3-10 for ELA and 3-8 for Mathematics.  Grade 10 Mathematics will test on standards common to both the Common Core standards and previous MA standards.

The MCAS assessment will be changing in the coming years to better assess the Common Core State Standards. In addition, Massachusetts is also a part of a consortium of states developing the PARCC assessment, which could replace MCAS.  The PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment is “innovative and engaging” and will provide timely data for student success.  More information for parents can be found here:

How has North Reading been preparing?

Since the Common Core State Standards and the corresponding 2011 Massachusetts Frameworks were introduced our educators have been unpacking the documents to understand what is most essential at each grade level for our students to know and be able to do.  The state has provided guiding documents to assist us in aligning our curriculum with the new documents and in being proactive in preparing our students for the future changes to assessments.  Our educators have also engaged in professional development and collaboration with educators from surrounding districts as we are all facing these changes and challenges together.