Retired teachers hear about Common Core Standards

Saturday, November 16, 2013
Barbara Hunter-Cox spoke to retired teachers about the changes education in Arkansas is undergoing. (DT Photo/Belina Santos)

Since the recent implementation a few years ago of the Common Core State Standards, many community members have heard mixed feelings from teachers and administrators about the new curriculum. Barbara Hunter-Cox, Director of Teaching and Learning with the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, recently spoke with the Retired Teachers Association with useful information about the standards, as well, as the new assessment to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year.

"Common Core is only one of three major pushes in the state right now along with assessment and technology," Cox said.

Common Core standards and the previously implemented standards are very different. Cox said CCSS is an integrated set of principles whereas teachers formerly were required to cover a long list of criteria.

"The goal is not to cover everything anymore; instead, the goal is for the students to master each area in the curriculum," Cox said. "Mastery is the key. Students need to master the subject areas."

With the new standards, a new assessment will soon be put into place in the upcoming year. The PARCC Assessment is designed to assess students' readiness for college as well as the workforce.

Cox explained the PARCC has five parts that occur across the school year. The first two parts are administered at the beginning of the year to tell where students stand academically. Another part of the test is an assessment of students' speaking and listening skills through a webcam observation.

The last two components of the test are required summative assessments designed to determine college and career readiness, measure the academic growth of the individual student, and test on the common core standards.

"The closer we get to the assessment, the more people are going to be negative because it is such a big change in practice," Cox said.

One of the major differences between the PARCC assessment and the Benchmark and End-of-Course tests is the use of technology. The PARCC Assessment will be administered solely online with results available 72 hours after the test.

The testing window for schools will be 24 days due to the lack of availability of computers in many schools for all students to test at the same time. The test is designed to be different for every student. As students progress through the questions, the test adjusts to their learning level.

Cox added the school and community should expect to see a dramatic drop in test scores during the first year, because PARCC is a rigorous test designed for students to go above comprehension and into practice.

"For more advanced students, the questions will go up to the students learning plateau or it can go the other way. If a student is struggling during the test, it is designed to go down to their learning level," Cox said.

According to Cox, the test is designed as a learning opportunity for many students with the integration of different concepts to make real-world problems.

"This shift is the biggest we have ever had to deal with in public schools. It's a shift of technology, assessment, and curriculum within three years," Cox said. "It's all designed for improvement."

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