Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 7:57 am | Fair 35º


Bill Cirone: Common Core Explained — What, Why and How We Measure Student Success

Few things excite the passions of concerned parents more than substantive changes to the ways in which their children are taught and their progress is measured. The new “Common Core” set of standards for teaching and learning being enacted nationwide has a lot of parents and teachers very excited, though there are some who are understandably concerned about what Common Core is, what it does and how it will affect their school-age children.

While not exhaustive, this article will provide a brief overview of Common Core, as well as address some of the apprehensions parents have about Common Core that have evolved over the several years since the new standards were announced.

Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, were developed by educators, adopted by 43 states, and implemented voluntarily by communities and districts to help prepare students for a complex and unpredictable future. The motivation for these new standards was the overwhelming consensus that “No Child Left Behind” requirements were actually impeding learning and the development of critical thinking skills in students.

Further, they were hamstringing teachers by forcing them to “teach to the test” — or face dire consequences.

Common Core seeks to move away from a “Test-and-Punish” policy and move toward a “Build-and-Support” approach, according to former California Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig. Honig also served as chairman of the Instructional Quality Commission, an advisory body to the California State Board of Education.

While states like New York and Kentucky have seen considerable consternation surrounding Common Core — due to what many argue was a “too much, too soon” approach — California’s approach has been more measured. There has been less reliance on testing, while local districts have been empowered and provided more autonomy and resources necessary to improve. While there is not — and never will be — unanimous support for Common Core, even among educators, the majority have embraced these new expectations embedded in CCSS, and feel they will make an important difference in how children learn and how we measure our classroom outcomes.

In the past, testing was largely relegated to one end-of-year assessment, called “summative” because it ostensibly summed up the year’s work. The first major shift, then, is that there will now be three components to assessment, rather than one single end-of-year assessment.

Summative tests will be retained as an important means of identifying progress that has been made. In addition, there will be interim assessments in the middle of the year, for teachers and districts to gauge how and what students are learning, and to make adjustments if they are not. The third component involves process. A digital library will be available to teachers year-long, providing strategies, tools and resources for determining how students are learning as the year progresses.

The second major shift involves test targets — what are the goals? Instead of having students merely accumulate knowledge, the Common Core targets are now designed to measure how well students understand the material and can use their new learning. Along with reading to follow a story, for example, students will learn to read in order to cite evidence and draw logical conclusions. They will use math to solve real-world challenges, rather than merely picking out the correct multiple-choice answer.

The new tests are not just harder versions of the old tests; they are truly testing new things — ways of thinking and analyzing information. A fourth grade math question, for example, will have students select and use the right tools to solve a problem and interpret the results in a given context. If you or your child is interested in seeing what kinds of questions will be on the California Common Core tests, you can take a sample test by clicking here.

These new tests are made possible by newer technology involving computer adaptation. Students take the tests on computers that enable them to highlight passages, drag and drop a series of symbols that answer a question, and even react to a correct or incorrect answer by changing the type of question that follows. Rather than requiring five to ten questions to see if a student has mastered a given concept, the new computer adaptation enables students to move ahead to higher levels of questions if they answer the first levels correctly, or step back to a slightly easier version of the same question if they are incorrect.

Why make these changes? “The standards are seen both to embody the kind of education we have long desired for our students,” Honig says, “as well as providing a tremendous opportunity to stimulate much-needed discussions on how best to improve practice at each school and district and develop the collaborative capacity to support such efforts.”

In Santa Barbara County, we encourage that collaboration to continue — in the form of a robust, meaningful conversation among parents, teachers and students — as we move forward with Common Core.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.