6. Do the standards mean teaching and learning have to change a lot? Common Core focuses on critical thinking and problem-solving, which are skills students need but that are traditionally hard to measure. States often have to overhaul their entire curriculum to meet the new standards, and teachers require a lot of professional development to change their instructional practices. “Teachers need time and professional learning to adapt their practice,” O’Brien said, noting that not all teachers will need the same amount of time and professional development, but many will.
7. Do teachers support the Common Core? A large majority do, O’Brien said, citing a report noting that 84 percent of surveyed teachers who experienced more than one year of full implementation were enthusiastic about the standards. Still, 81 percent said implementation is challenging.
8. Do other people support the standards? That’s more complicated, and O’Brien noted that support is largely a partisan issue. While citizens seem to support rigorous and consistent standards, they often don’t equate the Common Core with the skills they think students need today, including critical thinking and problem solving, she said.
9. How does standardization lead to personalized learning? Standards are the bar every child should reach, O’Brien said, but how students get there will vary based on state curricula. “Learning can, and should, be personalized under the Common Core,” she said.
10. Are the standards a curriculum? This can be confusing for people who are not in the education field. The standards outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. They are the goal. Curriculum is what happens day to day in the classroom–it’s how teachers teach. Three different teachers in three different states might use three different instructional strategies to teach their students how to meet a writing standard about supporting an opinion piece with examples from a text. The three different groups of students will be working toward the same goal, but using different strategies.
11. Will students stop reading fiction in class? English teachers will still teach literature, but nonfiction is a part of the standards. Teachers in other subjects will begin to focus on incorporating reading and writing skills into lessons to help students build their knowledge.
12. Do the standards impact student privacy? There is no federal data collection requirement in the Common Core. Each state will decide what data to collect and how to use that data. States and districts do not sell student information, and the vendors handling that data must follow all state and federal laws protecting student privacy.
13. Does Common Core require more testing, and how are Common Core tests different? Some states and districts might opt to add testing, but the standards do not require more. States can replace old tests with Common Core-aligned assessments. The new tests will include more constructed response and performance-based tasks designed to test the depth of students’ knowledge. These tests will require use of the critical thinking and problem solving that are an essential part of the standards. Tests will be administered online.
At the end of the webinar, O’Brien reviewed a number of resources, including the Common Core Standards site and the National PTA’s Common Core Resources.