State Rep. Gus Blackwell (Point of View, April 17) states that full implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) would concede control of local education to the federal government. In fact it does the opposite. The standards simply provide a framework for a rigorous education, a framework that can be filled in by administrators and teachers at the local level.
District school boards across Oklahoma will determine what curriculum will be adopted to meet these standards. The biggest difference between what we have currently, the C3 standards, and CCSS, is that 45 other states have also adopted them. As a result, as a teacher, I will be confident in knowing that the performance of my students matches the rigorous standards for students in other states.
Student performance will be determined by a new set of tests, ones that will include performance-based assessments. These assessments require students to read, cite evidence from the reading and write responses to the questions rather than simply filling in a circle on a standardized test document. Students will not be able to guess a correct answer. Rather, they will be required to show what they know. The cost of these tests will be higher, but the information parents and teachers receive from the results will be far more specific.
One concern about the CCSS that I hear from teachers is the inclusion of more nonfiction texts at the expense of fiction text. This concern likely comes from the standards that call for 50 percent of what elementary, 60 percent of what middle school and 70 percent of what high school students read should be nonfiction throughout the school day. This change is critical when you consider the type of reading done in college or on the job. Students need to learn specific strategies for reading and making sense of nonfiction. This can only happen with practice — practice that occurs in the science, social studies and math classrooms in addition to language arts.
Perhaps one of the most beneficial improvements the CCSS brings to teaching and learning is that shared standards means all education professionals can be focused on creating the best materials and resources that can help move students to the next level. Gone are the days when curriculum companies created textbooks that were several hundred pages long in order to include all the standards of each individual state. Now, with the focus that comes from CCSS, textbooks will be dedicated to what students should know and understand deeply at their grade level. With fewer standards, teachers will have the time to teach for true mastery rather than racing through content.
While no one knows the final cost of implementation of the CCSS, dollars will be well spent when students in Oklahoma graduate from high school truly prepared for college and career and ready to compete for jobs in the global economy.
Sparks teaches eighth-grade math at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City and was the 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.