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Will Common Core Standards Make Students College-Ready?

Common Core Standards

First Posted: 04/27/11 10:59 PM ET Updated: 06/27/11 06:12 AM ET

UPDATE: Since this story was first published, it has been clarified that 44 states and U.S. territories, not 48, have stated an intention to adopt the standards. The article has been updated to reflect the change.

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Storytime isn't what it used to be. In classrooms across the country, kindergartners aren't just having books read to them -- they're comparing and contrasting characters. And second-graders aren't reciting rhymes -- they're analyzing poetry.

These examples are the Common Core Standards in action. From kindergarten to 12th grade, 15 districts nationwide are currently participating in trial runs of the standards, which urge critical thinking in students and also provide uniform benchmarks for all states to follow.

But the standards also allow schools some flexibility. In Florida, district officals are meeting now to discuss exactly what their standards will look like. Melissa Erickson, president of the Hillsborough County Council of PTA/PTSA, tells Tampa Bay Online she thinks common standards will benefits the entire education community:

"This is the biggest thing right now in education.''

Forty-four states and U.S. territories have stated an intention to adopt the standards, introduced last year by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The measure was endorsed by the Obama administration, and most states quickly jumped on board last year in an attempt to get federal funding through Race to the Top. States that agreed to adopt the standards won points for a share of the $3.4 billion.

The new standards give specific goals -- from kindergarten to 12th grade -- that prepare students for college. The New York Times cites examples of English and history students who are required to go beyond summarizing information by reading media such as long-form magazine articles and synthesizing them with other sources. Students aren't just exposed to different viewpoints, but are also required to analyze the beliefs and biases present in a piece of reading, according to the Times.

But Shael Polakow-Suransky, New York's chief academic officer, says big changes within students won't happen overnight.

"This isn't one of those things where you flip the switch and tomorrow, everything is going to be different," he said.

And some are simply not pleased with the new standards.

Texas, which has resisted the new standards completely, has now written its own. The standards are founded upon Massachusetts' former benchmarks, according to Boston.com.

Though Massachusetts is one of the states that adopted the standards last year, the Tantasqua Regional school board has petitioned the legislature to now opt out, Education Week reports.

The state's initial adoption of the standards came amid controversy, as Massachusetts leads the country in education scores and was hesitant to forgo its own standards:

"We have some of the most exacting standards in the United States," said James A. Cooke, the Tantasqua Regional school board say member who initiated discussion of the issue. "Why should we use someone else's standards?

As an example, the national standards make little room for the state's strong commitment to literature, Boston.com reports. The Common Core Standards require that by 12th grade, 30 percent of students' readings should be literary and 70 percent should be informational.

The Tantasqua Regional board says the state was too quick to embrace the new standards, excited by the idea of potentially winning Race to the Top dollars. But a state education department spokesman released a statement last year saying Massachusetts believes in a nationwide unified front:

"That said, in today's economy, it makes little sense for 50 states to have 50 separate set [sic] of standards, and for students to be tested using 50 separate assessments. In addition, while we have strong standards now, we would be naïve to assume they cannot be improved, and that we have nothing left to learn from others."
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Filed by Jessica Prois  |