I’m pretty sure most teachers can relate – college and career ready standards are coming to a school near you. Please panic.
For those of you who aren’t teachers, let me explain. College and career ready standards (formally common core standards) are a new set of standards that teacher have to teach in the classroom. They will replace the AZ state standards that are currently used next year. Arizona is one of 45 states the will be using these new standards.
Standards are a list of objectives that students need to learn in each subject in order to continue. They vary from grade to grade and from subject to subject. For example, I’m a chemistry teacher. Part of my standards are to teach the parts of an atom, so I have to set up a lesson or two to teach that standard. Much of the standards are like that: having students describe functions and properties, having students recall information that they memorized, or having students use formulas to solve a problem.
The new standards are going to focus more on problem solving, critical thinking, and real world application. It’s actually pretty good. They were written by teachers, professors, administrators, and parents in order to better prepare students. States can choose to adapt them. But basically it makes it so that if you are going to school in Arizona or California or Florida, you are learning the same skills during your education. You can read more about the CCRS here.
I don’t really want to talk much about the standards themselves. As a teacher, I think they are pretty good standards and will better prepare students for the challenges they face after high school. I want to talk more about how they are better.
The new standards want students to be able to solve problems and to think critically. Many multiple choice tests are based on the ability to recall facts, to define terms, and to pick the best response. Critical thinking problems need more than multiple choice tests. This is a problem.
For example: AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards). Reading and math AIMS are both multiple choice tests that don’t require a whole lot of critically thinking. The reading test does test how well students can read and understand a text, but many of the questions have to do with finding specific information in the text or understanding the definitions of words. There are little questions asking students to analyzing the text.
The math test isn’t much better. Students have to solve problems, but it’s very straight forward stuff. Again, there aren’t a lot of critical thinking problems.
The CCRS is trying to fix that with the PARCC test. They ask students to use their knowledge to draw conclusions, make inferences, and generally think about things. The essays for the English test ask students to use evidence from the text to justify their answers (something that students have a hard time with but is a critical skill for them to have). The math sections asks them to analyze data, draw conclusions from the data, and manipulate the data to find patterns.
So, CCRS and PARCC are better. Much better. Yet people have a problem with these new standards and don’t want states to adapt them. Part of it might be because they don’t understand what the CCRS are. Part it might be because they don’t want “the government” in education. Either way, they are wrong. CCRS are good. They are better. They will help educators better prepare students for life after high school.
Now if we can just get the next generation science standards adapted…