29 Apr

Implementation of Common Core Standards in Pennsylvania

On July 2, 2010, Pennsylvania officially adopted their version of the Common Core Standards so many other states have adopted as well. One of the early implementers, it agreed to have total integration by the 2013-2014 school year, however the relationship has been less than ideal, leading to nothing but raucous debate over the period of four years.

Pennsylvania Common Core Standards

Though the switch began slowly and steadily, it wasn’t until 2013 that the true effect of the standards began coming to light. The new framework for yearly educational landmarks seemed like it was off to a good start. For three years, the changes slowly creeped into classrooms, altering what standards have to be met in order to proceed to the next grade. Unfortunately, the State Board of Education added more to these stipulations, including passing Keystone Exams in biology, literature and Algebra I, as graduation requirements. Needless to say, this was met with mass upset with a majority of negative feelings falling on Common Core instead of the Board that proposed the addition.

Not long after, Governor Tom Corbett ordered a delay right before full implementation was to go into effect in 2013. Because both the House and Senate committees on education were not comfortable with such a shift in grade-level expectations, Corbett decided to take a step back and postpone the process until acceptable modifications to the standards could be made.

In its simplest terms, the split between proponents and opponents in Pennsylvania revolves entirely around the final test determining graduation material. Many do not approve of a standardized test speaking for the aptitude of graduates in a world where some of the most brilliant minds do poorly on such exams. Another decent point argues the change is far too expensive after a $900 million budget cut made only two years ago. Finally, a smaller amount view Common Core as a narrowing down of curriculum, limiting the school in their ability to teach the students as a way to increase federal control.

Common Core’s Current State

As of last year, after the ban went into effect, state officials have confirmed that the standards were officially repealed, not to be used within Pennsylvanian borders any longer. The Pennsylvania Common Core Standards were done away with in favor of the Pennsylvania core standards. It is during this school year that these state standards are to be implemented.

While still similar to the Common Core, they are not the same. The only thing the two share is the desire to prepare students for the future by focusing on knowledge, concepts and skills they will need to flourish in college and beyond. Corbett even went a step further than his repeal of the Core in March. By September, he called for another reformation of the state standards to further distance them from Common Core. He even went as far as to refer to Common Core as a top-down takeover of states’ educational systems by the government. Yet even with this display of anti-Core, many opponents believe the Pennsylvania core is the government program with a different name—a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

As for how this is affecting the children, no one is quite sure. At the moment, it’s merely adults arguing over the future of the Pennsylvania school system. If, however, one thing can be gleaned from this, it’s that Common Core, whether it works or not, has sewn dissent among the masses. As far as the state of Pennsylvania is concerned, Common Core has no place. With opposition much louder than support, it seems the state will work to distan

27 Apr

The Future of Education in Utah

Unlike states, such as Massachusetts, Utah’s implementation of and current standing regarding Common Core is relatively divided. As it stands, no one is entirely sure which way the state will swing after they agreed to the standards August 8, 2010. Since then, small changes have been made but bigger and bigger steps are being taken to create a distance between the federally created standards versus those of the state itself.

Bringing the Core to the West

Utah’s story goes further back than 2010. The real issues began under the No Child Left Behind Act that increased the power of the federal government’s say in how state schools are run. Under this Act, all Utah students must pass their statewide tests. Should this not happen, the failing schools would face a complete restructuring, including firing teachers and principals. The rub, however, turned out to be that a waiver was created with the only stipulation being adoption of better career and college standards, namely in the guise of Common Core.

This led to its adoption as the Utah Core in 2010. The state then received its first waiver not too long after. This waiver continues to last until June 2015 unless Utah decides against renewing. Instead, it looks as though the state will forego a renewal in favor of a $30 million appropriation to fund bettering their own school system themselves.

Part of this decision has revolved heavily around the Utah Core. After adoption, a committee was appointed made up of college professors that reviewed the standards set forth. They checked them to see if they were more rigorous, actually prepared students for college and based around best practices.

The committee found the standards to be more rigorous as well as better aligned in comparison to the relatively hodgepodge collection of knowledge used by the old system. They also required students to practice a level of higher analysis, something never seen in the state before. All in all, the professors believe it to be a great way to improve the future of Utah’s children.

During this time of evaluation, the public was surveyed to keep the entirety of the state’s thoughts in mind. Over half ended up supporting the increased rigor brought on by the new standards. Even with a rather positive view of the standards, there were many comments from the public detailing the hindrance of the implementation. According to them, there was simply not enough development for the teachers to properly adapt to the new system. This can be traced back to the teacher training budget of $77 million that was gutted to a mere $1 million during the recession.

Utah’s Future

In 2012, the state decided to reduce animosity by removing itself from the consortium of a collection of states working together to develop general knowledge tests based on Common Core. While this doesn’t determine if the state will or will not use the tests, it nonetheless reduces Utah’s voice in the developmental process. Many saw this as a smart move since working on the test would automatically sign up Utah for using that specific one even though a wide array of statewide options are available.

In the end, this did not lead to a drop of Common Core altogether. Because many in the state see it as a set of standards that will improve their rather mediocre school system, there has been not much of an outcry against the program. The only problem that’s been shown is the public’s wariness of government involvement, causing them to do what they can to keep the government out while somehow incorporating the federally created way of education. As for the children? Data is still being gathered. The transitional time is over in many states, meaning we should know its effect on Utah in a few more years.

20 Apr

Implementation of Common Core Standards in Maryland

Though officially adopted June 22, 2010 and fully implemented by the 2013-2014 school year, Maryland’s adoption of the Common Core standards has been anything by smooth. While the state has officially implemented the standards and begun testing using the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, for standardized testing, it’s been a battle every step of the way.

Prior to implementation, Maryland was continually ranked as the top school system in the country when their students were judged on readiness for college and beyond. This fact in and of itself is enough to explain why the state has been anything if not vocal against the shift. It was working great before, why rock the boat?

As standards began shifting the school system, resistance grew because the state was forcing too much change way too fast and too soon. Lawmakers, teachers and others involved in the process were extremely concerned about the amount of money being poured into the change but the lack of time needed to properly prepare. Much like the memorably bad Affordable Care Act Website launch, a majority of those in Maryland found the push to threaten an idea that is otherwise promising. Lillian Lowery, the superintendent of the Maryland school system, heard the concern and worked as hard as she could to buy the teachers more time, even pushing back the implementation of the Common Core teacher evaluations system.

Following this, in early 2014, the state used a stipulation set forth in the No Child Left Behind law to keep 25,000 students from taking their state test. Montana, Mississippi, Connecticut, Vermont and South Dakota have also followed suit. This was pursued as a means to keep students from being double tested. Maryland students could take one or the other, but not both. Some officials even tried to block the old Maryland state test altogether, stating that it no longer fit the curriculum as set forth by Common Core.

Even with that discussion going on, the state test was still administered, resulting in the lowest rates in seven years. Though headline fodder, the result is hardly surprising to many teachers and officials. It was already known the state test didn’t align with the new standards. While relatively upsetting for the state, it nonetheless indicated that standards implementation was truly starting to take hold.

The last big occurrence brought about in this small state was Lowery’s push to pass legislation that officially postponed teacher’s being judged based on PARCC test scores until the 2016-2017 school year. At that time, teacher evaluations were only partially based on test scores, leading them to be understandably worried their students needed more time to adapt before they could successfully take the test.

At the same time. Senator Rich Madaleno gave the setting of criteria for teacher evaluation directly back to the local school boards. Along with Common Core came a bill that moved to criteria as determined by the state itself. Because every school system within the state is different, it came as no surprise that educators were less than thrilled to be judged against standards that simply didn’t match the environment they were teaching in.

While Maryland is but one of many states back peddling since the first gung-ho movement for higher, nationalized standards, it is still pressing forward. Even with the ups and downs brought about by the change, no one is expecting the state to back out completely. In fact, the whole reason Lowery fought for delayed teacher evaluation was to make sure her state has the time it needs to properly switch from one style of teaching to another, an indicator in its own right that Maryland’s Common Core is here to stay.

15 Apr

A Beneficial Standard – the Common Core Standards in Wyoming

In comparison to the other states of the US, Wyoming only just joined the Common Core movement, officially adopting it as policy on June 16, 2012. In the state, it is officially known as the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards and is to be officially fully implemented by the 2014-2015 school year. While there is always opposition to bills that expand government control, Wyoming has actually found Common Core to be more beneficial than others.

Wyoming’s Common Core Progress

As some would paint it, Common Core is a federal plot to infiltrate the minds of the young, slowly taking control of the states that way. In truth, they’re simply standards every child should grasp during their time in school to guarantee a better future. As Jim McBride, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, sees it, it’s a better way. Previously, the No Child Left Behind bill forced every state to spend time and money submitting their state standards to the government for approval, leaving many states to call out for another way. Common Core is the government’s answer.

In 2008, the state was up for their annual state standards review with only minimal changes made. The following year, Common Core started showing up more and more in discussions at the same moment Wyoming was finding members of a new committee that would lead a standards overhaul. Once put together, it was clear that the majority favored Common Core. In its favor was the fact that the new standards had a set of basic concepts everyone could agree children need to learn in addition to the stipulation that the state could then add their own concepts on top of the ones in place.

Major opponents declared the government put pressure on each state to adopt, however, this is not how it happened. While the promise of more funding through adoption was appealing, the US Department of Education never once forced the adoption, as evinced by other states, such as Texas, refusing the adoption.

To further distance Common Core from a government conspiracy, Wyoming has a lot of control over the entire process. To start with, a committee was formed to review the standards. On top of this, the public was always in the know. During a period of time, they had a chance to comment on the standards, some emailed, some written. There were also 13 public hearings throughout the state. To take this further, each Wyoming district gets full control over their curriculum. So long as the standards are adhered to, Wyoming teachers can build any kind of curriculum they want, meaning students will reap the benefits.

Wyoming’s Core Future

Review of the process in Wyoming won’t start until 2017, so it’s hard to say just what kind of impact Common Core is making. At the moment, however, it’s in full play across the state. Even so, groups against the federally mandated standards are anything if not vocal. Including the Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core and the Wyoming Liberty Group, these anti-Core groups are calling for repeal and revision immediately. Even legislation is seeing a few bills trying to pass that would halt the process altogether.

Yet in light of this, the vast majority of school districts have already fully implemented the change. There are still quite a few that need more time to complete total integration, however all should have at least a basic framework in play by the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

Designed as a way to get American students up to par no matter the school district while upping their educational global competitiveness, Common Core seeks to revolutionize the rather shaky structure of the current American school system. While opponents are quick to point out all the bad things that could happen, nothing is for certain until we see the generation of students successfully graduate.

25 Mar

Reading Time and Common Core in Connecticut

When a student is reading a passage in a classroom in Connecticut, they are expected to read it for understanding. Often they will have to answer questions about the text that they read. This doesn’t just happen in Reading classes, it happens in Science, Social Studies and other subjects. Sometimes there are things imbedded in the text that the student will be questioned about. Sometimes the answers to questions can be pulled directly from the text.

Whether they can point to the text and say that’s my answer or whether they have to dig deeper and use inferencing skills (referred to by one common core commenter in the state as “thinking beyond the words on the page”); students have to aim for accuracy and select the best answer.

In Math, comprehension skills are likewise needed. For example, with the advent of common core a student may get a word problem or other math problem to solve. They may see the answer choices in the form of graphs, tables or charts; and they have to decide which one best answers or represents the answer to the particular question.

In Connecticut, common core represents deeper levels of teaching and learning. Every child that has to get to this level needs every possible tool to help them get there. This includes a teacher who teaches in such a way that a student can explain the way they are thinking. Referred to as meta-cognition, or thinking about what they are thinking about, this concept is nothing new. Since it is receiving greater emphasis with common core, students are expected to articulate what their mind frame is, and almost know their content so well as to be able to teach another student the content in question.

Another tool that proves useful, and is in fact required, is headphones. Headphones can both enable a student to block outside noises so they can hear better; they also can be used with other technology (such as a tablet), to help the student maintain more control over their learning practices. For instance, they can rewind an audio or video if they are exposed to something they don’t understand.

Speaking and listening standards have also changed with common core. A student will have to develop these important skills on a higher level. Headphones can be used to aid in this goal. A student can record themselves speaking, doing a speech, reciting a poem, reading a story, etc. From that experience they can gain skills on how to put sentences and paragraphs together, how to edit their words, choose synonyms, add analogies, include similes and metaphors and more. This tool, in other words, helps students with self-improvement.

When it comes to listening, headphones will help students to fine tune details of the human voice and use of language. No child need listen just for listening sake, it’s all about listening with a goal in mind. For example, a student may need to listen to a passage and be prepared to answer questions that are related to that passage. As with reading a passage, when they listen to one they may have to think past the words for some answers and listen for the obvious ones that don’t require that depth of skill. Some questions will be open-ended, requiring essay or other responses besides choosing from multiple answers. Essay answers require students to demonstrate deeper levels of understanding than does multiple choice.

It is suggested that some of the elements discussed in this article are all about getting students to learn how to access and share their thoughts about a subject, distinctly know how they arrived at a particular conclusion or answer, learn content deeper and incorporate it into their personal body of knowledge.





10 Mar

Headphones for School Testing

The industry of educating our country’s youth is constantly changing in order to keep up with new inventions and the advances of modern technology. Subsequently, there’s no question that school testing is extremely different these days than it was just a few decades ago. Children now need to have skills to fit the world around them and school officials are encouraged to take this into consideration when preparing testing materials. Modern technology allows teachers and staff to implement the use of devices like computers and tablet when testing children for proficiency. Many state’s standardized tests are now even incorporating a digital section into the test to ensure each child is well prepared. For the most accurate results when it comes to these type of tests, it’s only understandable that students will require some type of headphone gear for audio portions. If you’re a school administrator looking to purchase new headphones for your school, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

Purchase the Right Type – Knowing exactly what type of headphones you need before ordering is key to supplying classrooms with the appropriate items required to assist with audio testing. Earbud style headphones are the most popular choice for adults, but aren’t always the best choice for children. These small buds usually don’t fit a child’s ears properly and can be difficult for small hands to put in and take out. Earbuds are lightweight and easily breakable, which is why most schools purchase disposable buds or opt for more durable styles that fit over the entire ear. If you will be ordering the traditional over the ear type of headphones, consider whether you will need wireless ones or the standard type with cable attachments. Computer labs will be fine housing attached headphones, while classrooms that use wireless technology like tablets and laptops might benefit more from wireless ones.

Buy in Bulk – The best way to save money on headphones for the students at your school is by purchasing in bulk. It’s recommended you know exactly how many pairs of headphones you will need to adequately supply your entire school or specific department without spending too much. You might want to coordinate with other departments or other schools in the district to consolidate your order to save more money by buying wholesale. Most retailers also offer discounts to schools and educational institutions, so be sure to ask. Also, don’t forget to keep and file the purchase records for tax purposes.

Don’t Forget Accessories – Some sets of headphones require the accompaniment of accessories, so be sure to order all that you need for your new audio devices to work accordingly. When placing your order, don’t forget items such as headphone cushions, cables, speakers and chargers. Also, keep in mind that school headphones can often times get extremely dirty after multiple uses, so it’s recommended you purchase a quality cleaner to keep in the classroom in order to wipe them down between uses.

If the audio equipment at your school need replacing, use these valuable tips to guide you through the process of purchasing the best headphones for today’s students.