By Linda Kor
School districts throughout the state began implementing the Common Core Standards with the start of this school year. These standards are the latest measures being implemented by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to help ensure success for students throughout college, career and life.
In designing the standards, Arizona joined with 46 other states as teachers, education leaders, and experts used their combined knowledge to create the next generation of K-12 standards in English, language arts and mathematics. The ADE approved these standards in 2010 and they are mandatory for districts throughout the state, with partial implementation of the standards beginning this year and full implementation to take place beginning next year.
As teachers bring students up to speed on the new requirements, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will replace Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tests begin-ning in 2014. These new third grade through high school assessments will measure a student’s progress, and show both teachers and parents how well the student is grasping the new curriculum standards.
“Arizona’s Common Core Standards provide a foundation and path for students to be well prepared for post-secondary educational options, whether it’s technical school, college or on-the-job training,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal. “This is an important step in the direction of truly en-suring our students are prepared for life opportunities in the 21st century. Building creative, innovative think-ers in our education system will better position our state to be nationally and globally competitive economi-cally.”
The introduction of the standards into the kindergarten curriculum may be one of the most challenging. These students will be expected to read simple books, add and subtract numbers less than 10, and write short sentences that start with capital letters and end in punctuation marks by the end of the school year, skills usu-ally learned in the first grade.
Dr. Robbie Koerperich, superintendent of the Holbrook School District, believes that while the standards will mean a new approach, the students will be able to grasp the necessary concepts. “It’s not about pounding more information into a student’s head, it’s about using creative ways to introduce higher thinking skills. There will be a higher rigor and higher content, and that will mean less scope and more in-depth learning in the common core subjects,” he said.
Koerperich believes that with a competitive and quickly evolving world job market, students will need to learn higher level thinking skills at a young age in order to be successful when they graduate. “Parents need to think of this now, whether they have children or are planning to have children. It’s about reading to your kids, providing proper nutrition and getting them ready for what they’ll be learning in school. They need to begin preparing for the next 18 to 20 years from birth,” he explained.
Dr. Jeri McKinnon, principal of Indian Wells Elementary School, fully supports the standards and what they will provide for students, even though it will mean changes for her youngest charges. “In the past, kindergartners had to know how to make letter sounds by the end of the school year; now they will need to recognize beginning, middle and end sounds. We will be going beyond rote memorization of say, one plus two, with students now needing to understand less than and greater than values,” she stated. According to McKin-non, the instruction will become more program-based, with skills being used on an interdisciplinary level. For example, mathematic concepts will be integrated with science projects.
McKinnon agreed that pre-school is highly recommended and if children are unable to attend preschool, parents will need to make up the difference with learning experiences at home.
A new website, ArizonaCommonCore.org, has been designed by the ADE to provide information to educators, students and their parents regarding the new standards.
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By Linda Kor