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The Common Core State Standard Initiative

There are some new academic standards in town.  They are robust and relevant to the real world, and they reflect knowledge and skills our young people need for success in college and careers. The Common Core State Standards are the product of a joint effort between the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  

Rumor and confusion about their development, promise and associated political agendas causes many debates over the standards’ value.



The common standards project was led by states rather than at the federal level—a common misconception since the standards are being adopted across the country.  Designed to improve educational outcomes for all students, they have a set of consistent, internationally benchmarked standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts.  Adoption of the Common Core standards by a state is voluntary and they are not connected to any federal mandate, high-stakes assessment, or national curriculum.  States can adopt the standards on their own timeline and in their own context.  Illinois has chosen to adopt the Common Core State Standards with a gradual implementation model leading to full implementation this year, in 2013-14. 

Until the development of the Common Core State Standards, each state used a unique set of academic standards around which teachers base their curriculum.  As you might expect, there is a variety of expectations and academic rigor based on where a student lives.  As a result, a student from Iowa might be better prepared for college and careers than a student from the state next door.  For the authors of these standards, it didn’t make sense that Math in Wisconsin looked any different than Math in Illinois.  Common Core State Standards are the first step in attempting to level the playing field to allow equal access to an excellent education for all students.  The standards are higher, fewer and deeper to ensure students not only acquire knowledge but can apply it in real-world terms.

Why Common Core Standards are important to Parents

Research has found that state standards are neither consistent across states nor aligned to college and workplace demands.  These inconsistencies present a challenge for students hoping to be prepared for success in college and career.  Last year, half of associate degree students needed to take remedial classes (that means paying for pre-college level classes at a college and not getting college credit). Almost a quarter of those seeking a 4-year degree required remediation.  There is a clear misalignment between current standards and college expectations. (source: Pearson US College Readiness Study).  Common Core Standards are designed to change that.

Clearer standards are designed to help parents better understand grade level expectations and equip parents with knowledge to support their children.  Standards in many states, including Illinois have been long, complicated codes and descriptions making them difficult for parents to decipher.  The new standards provide parents with clear expectations for what their children should be able to know and do when they graduate a particular grade level. 

What this means for Students Today

As classrooms across Illinois are aligning to the more rigorous expectations of the Common Core, students are being asked to step up to these expectations.  That means curriculum may change, the teachers’ method of delivery may change, and assessments will change.   Teachers are adjusting their lessons to help build students up to the new, higher expectations with careful support and multi-year transition plans.  Districts are creating assessments to measure student progress and check for individual student understanding and growth. 

State assessments are changing as well. Illinois’s standardized test, the ISAT is in a multi-year phase out. Last year’s ISAT had 25% of its questions aligned to Common Core and this year the ISAT assessment will be 100% aligned to the Common Core expectations.  After that, we can expect a new assessment to replace ISAT.  Illinois has partnered with a consortium of states in a group called PARCC, to develop a computer-based assessment aligned to Common Core expectations for administration in 2014. 

As Illinois has chosen to partner with other states and join the growing movement of the Common Core State Standards, the Winnebago School District is making every effort to support our teachers, students, and parents during this transition.  If the Common Core State Standards better prepare our students for college and careers, and better prepare our students for success, then that’s one goal everyone in the community can agree with.