Common Core State Standards seek to raise student achievement


Jessica Takehara

Even with the best laid plans, change happens. A new job, divorce, military deployment or any number of situations can mean moving to a different house. If there are children involved, this may mean a new school, too.

Key Peninsula schools are no strangers to this as the community changes with an ebb and flow of moving families. Transfer students are not the only ones affected by variances in when educational concepts are taught.

Even within a school or specific grade, what students learn can differ. This leaves a knowledge gap in students’ education.

According to Claudia Thompson, academic officer for learning and teaching in the Peninsula School District, Common Core State Standards are geared to alleviate discontinuity through setting “consistent and aligned” objectives.

This is not the only goal, however. Students will be expected to learn a smaller number of vital concepts at a deeper level of understanding, she said. Holt Math (grades 6-12) and enVision Math (K-5) are the curriculums students are using to achieve this goal. There also is a shift to writing analytical arguments supported by evidence and more nonfiction reading. Making Meaning, SpringBoard and Writers Workshop curriculums are currently used by PSD in English language arts to meet requirements.

The Common Core State Standards were authored by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practice and the Council of Chief State School Officers. These groups were comprised of teachers, parents and community leaders from across the nation. In 2009, Kentucky was the first state to put Common Core into action. Washington state’s adoption of the standards links it to 44 other states.

One of the challenges during implementation has continued to be, according to Thompson, a general “misperception of Common Core.” The loss of local control over educational direction tops the list. Even though Common Core outlines what to teach students, PSD retains local autonomy by choosing curriculums to address how to make that happen.

PSD Instructional Facilitator Bridgit Reichel also cites teachers retaining autonomy within the classroom setting by “using the skills they possess as teachers to support students.” Professional development plus staff collaboration inside and between schools helps teachers work through the transition as well.

In order to assess Common Core and the curriculums used to meet the requirements, PSD will begin field testing Smarter Balanced Assessments for grades third through eighth this school year.

This will replace, by 2014/2015, the current standardized testing for all primary and secondary students. The ultimate goal is to “give students the best chance to succeed in the very competitive and more global society,” Thompson said.

For information about the Common Core State Standards, visit the PSD website or