A shift in the math and English language arts curriculum under the “Common Core Standards and Assessments” (CCSA) will impact public schools and subsequently generate new standards for teachers.
This national and state initiative, that is not nationally funded, will be adopted by 45 states, including Ohio. The change in the education curriculum will entail what each grade level is expected to know in math and English language arts courses.
The CCSA was developed by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers mostly because the U.S. is not near the very top in international testing of students, but also to better prepare students for college and to raise achievement, according to Constance Weaver, a Miami University teacher education professor.
“It’s intended to improve teaching instruction and in 2014 it will affect Ohio teachers going into public schools,” Weaver said.
Weaver said the standards for English language arts include fundamental reading skills, reading literature and informational texts, writing, speaking, listening and language.
“Many of the standards are good ones that could improve teaching,” Weaver said. “But there are too many standards and many seem appropriate for only Advanced Placement students.”
Junior Kiersten Wyatt, an early childhood education major, said she has talked about the issue in some classes, but does not know a lot about it.
“They’re just standards that teachers are going to have to meet,” Wyatt said.
Weaver said the standards are used as expectations to be reached within a year and as grade levels increase a more rigorous set is supposed to be mastered because it is assumed that everyone will achieve a certain goal at a certain grade level.
There are numerous drawbacks to the curriculum change, according to Weaver.
Because the public schools’ curriculum is not federally funded or mandated, more money will be spent on testing, which will result in less time for learning. Areas of the curriculum will be dropped and class sizes will increase due to lack of funds, Weaver said.
“The current mania for standardized testing will only increase with more extensive CCSA standards, with perhaps most of teachers’ instructional time spent on test preparation instead of encouraging critical thinking and creativity,” Weaver said.
Weaver said standardized tests of the CCSA are being developed in order to analyze and track student progress, to help teachers determine what to teach and to rank students, teachers, schools, their districts and states.
In addition to this, the new “Teacher Performing Assessment” will be instilled in colleges for education majors as a mechanism to determine if these future teachers can meet the standards.
“It’s an assessment component that videotapes the student teaching and independent judges then determine if these aspiring teachers are ready for the classroom,” Kristin Paul, senior middle school education major, said.
All of these changes in student learning and teacher preparation are the changes that will impact future education for states that have adopted the curriculum. All states except for five are adopting the curriculum, Paul said.
Miami junior and senior education majors are still studying the old standards. They have not transferred over since the standards have not been implemented yet. Current first-year and sophomore education majors probably know more about the new system, according to Wyatt.
Paul said that the curriculum should benefit students in the future because they will be able to focus on material longer.
“It’s going to broaden the curriculum for the teachers’ students to focus more on going in depth [with the] material rather than just covering a lot of material,” Paul said.
Weaver said she thinks these standards that emphasize a wide range of topics, especially critical thinking at the higher levels, shouldn’t be the curriculum, but instead the background for teaching.
She said she would like to see teachers enriching students instead of meeting test statistic criteria. These abilities and understanding is the goal for what Miami is trying to help the teacher education students develop.
“Teachers can make a huge difference if they’re allowed and they need to be educated to teach imaginatively, to assess with compassion and to help administrators understand that narrow teaching isn’t the best way to meet external standards,” Weaver said.
As for current Miami education majors, not much is known about the CCSA, but Paul said she thinks there is general acceptance of the change.
“I think in general the education majors here are in support of the curriculum change because we see it as it’s going to benefit the students even though it’s going to be harder for us teachers to do that,” Paul said.